LUCK is a behind-the-track look at the world of horse racing and gambling’s denizens – owners, trainers, jockeys and gamblers. Michael Mann assembled a brilliant cast led by Hoffman and Nolte when he directed the pilot, written by series creator David Milch. In making the episodes as executive producers, they work collaboratively together, with Milch masterfully overseeing the writing for the series and Mann supervising every aspect of the filmmaking. LUCK was filmed at Santa Anita Park and other Los Angeles locations.
As the series opens, Chester “Ace” Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) is released from three years in federal prison. He’s met by his driver and bodyguard, Gus Demitriou (Dennis Farina), who fronts as the owner of the $2 million Irish Horse that Ace just bought. A brilliant but disreputable trainer, the Peruvian Turo Escalante (John Ortiz), introduces us to their prized Irish thoroughbred, who is being examined by his girlfriend, track veterinarian Jo (Jill Hennessy).
Meanwhile, veteran trainer-turned-owner Walter Smith (Nick Nolte) contains his optimism pinned on his promising “Big Horse” because he’s wary. Of what, we’re unsure, but we learn there’s a dark history and a shadow of scandal behind the horse.
Four degenerate gamblers, Marcus (Kevin Dunn), Renzo (Ritchie Coster), Jerry (Jason Gedrick), and Lonnie (Ian Hart), meanwhile, are pooling their meager resources to bet Jerry’s hunch on the day’s long shot, a high-stakes Pick Six winners contest.
Despite HBO commissioning a second season there were ongoing concerns from animal rights organisations about the horses used on the show. Three horses died during the filming of the first season.
The following was issued by HBO on 14 March 2012… It is with heartbreak that executive producers David Milch and Michael Mann together with HBO have decided to cease all future production on the series LUCK. Safety is always of paramount concern. We maintained the highest safety standards throughout production, higher in fact than any protocols existing in horseracing anywhere with many fewer incidents than occur in racing or than befall horses normally in barns at night or pastures. While we maintained the highest safety standards possible, accidents unfortunately happen and it is impossible to guarantee they won’t in the future. Accordingly, we have reached this difficult decision. We are immensely proud of this series, the writing, the acting, the filmmaking, the celebration of the culture of horses, and everyone involved in its creation.
Dustin Hoffman as Chester Bernstein
Dennis Farina as Gus Demitriou
John Ortiz as Turo Escalante
Richard Kind as Joey Rathburn
Jill Hennessy as Jo
Nick Nolte as Walter Smith
Kevin Dunn as Marcus
Ian Hart as Lonnie
Ritchie Coster as Renzo
Jason Gedrick as Jerry
Kerry Condon as Rosie
Gary Stevens as Ronnie Jenkins
Tom Payne as Leon Micheaux
Joan Allen as Claire Lachay
Alan Rosenberg as Nick DeRossi
Michael Gambon as Michael
Ted Levine as Isadore Cohen
Chantal Sutherland as Lizzy
Shauna Stoddart as Lorelei
Creator and Executive Producer: David Milch
Executive Producers: Michael Mann, Carolyn Strauss
Producer: Dustin Hoffman
Network and Production Companies: HBO
Duration: 9×60 minute episodes
Aired From: 12/11/2011 – 3/25/2012