HBO in ‘Luck’ with Milch, Mann, Hoffman

Net bets on odds of teaming trio for horseracing drama

HBO has hit the trifecta with its forthcoming drama “Luck,” thanks to creator David Milch, director Michael Mann and Oscar-winning actor Dustin Hoffman.

The project, which is set in the morally ambiguous world of high-stakes horseracing, is a highly anticipated homecoming for Milch, who previously created the critically adored “Deadwood” and the critically panned “John From Cincinnati” for the premium cable net.

“I’m not aware of any place else that I would even try to tell a story like this because it has so many textures and colors, a few of them dark,” Milch says. “It’s extremely ambitious, and HBO has a tendency to say, ‘Bring it on.’?”

The series, set to premiere in 2011, is personal for Milch, who’s owned horses that have won the Breeders’ Cup, horseracing’s Super Bowl.

“I’ve always wanted to write about the racetrack,” he says. “It’s a charged setting, and I finally felt that I might be competent to engage it in a constructive way that would have an appeal for a large audience.”

Mann’s own unfamiliarity with the inner workings of the track hardly discouraged him from signing on to direct the “Luck” pilot, which he calls “probably one of the two best-written scripts anybody ever handed me.”

The involvement of the acclaimed film director, who previously produced the iconic ’80s shows “Miami Vice” and “Crime Story,” helped convince Hoffman — playing gambler and recent parolee Ace Bernstein — to sign on for his first series.

Mann was also instrumental in securing Nick Nolte for the role of a scandal-plagued character.

Says the helmer: “I had a conversation with (Michael) Lombardo that went something like, ‘Hey, Mike, I’d really love to have Nolte for this role, but I know your cast budget is exhausted. Is there some way we could think about it?’ And he said, ‘How can we not have Nick Nolte? We’ll just reach for it.’ And that was the length of the conversation.”

Talk about a “Luck”-y day.

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