David Milch aims for ‘visceral experience’ with HBO’s ‘Luck’


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HBO hit the trifecta with the creative team for the upcoming series ‘Luck’ — writer David Milch, director Michael Mann and star Dustin Hoffman bring a lot of Hollywood horsepower to a series about racetrack culture and the dark deals made by gamblers and gangsters. Los Angeles Times reporter Geoff Boucher wrote the first major piece about the show on Sunday with a major profile of Mann, but here’s more: A Q&A with Milch, the creator of ‘NYPD Blue’ and ‘Deadwood’ and a fan of racing who also has owned champion horses.

Q: It’s intriguing to see you collaborating with Michael Mann. What can you tell us about him as a creative force so far?


A: He brings what he brings to every piece of work of his that I’ve seen. He’s an extraordinary shooter. Michael realizes the visual possibilities of the material with a compression and an intensity that is very, very gratifying. The final product is extraordinary.

Q: Are there any special challenges you’ve seen in this partnership so far?

A: You know, you say ‘challenges’ — there are challenges in every collaboration. I think a challenge is an opportunity in disguise. There’s always a process of adaptation that goes on. You try, given the coordinates of the relationship and the situation, you try to maximize the end product. I hope you’ll agree that the end product is a pretty compelling and inviting piece of work, inviting in the sense that you want to see and get more.

Q: It must be exciting for you to build a show around Santa Anita Park. You’ve spent a lot of time in your life at racetracks ...

A: No, that was a cousin. I had a cousin who spent a lot of time at racetracks. [Laughs] The setting is exciting, yes, but there’s some nervousness in making it too. You want to get it right. You always feel a particular duty of care to whatever world you’re trying to portray, but then you especially feel it when there is a lived experience against which you’re measuring the activities of the imagination. I think that sense of responsibility is compounded. That’s one of the reasons I was so grateful to Michael, to bring that separate eye. That really enriched the end product.

Q: The pilot is very unhurried. There’s a lot of mysteries and histories that are left unexplained ...

A: Yeah, a lot like life.

Q: Clearly, but it’s nice to see that television, especially cable drama, has reached a place where you don’t have to explain every single aspect of a character the moment they arrive on screen.

A: Yeah. I think that as far as any kind of ambiguity or obscurity that registers as calculated, I don’t have much time for that. There was a wonderful jazz muscian, and they asked him why the pace of what he was doing was rather slow, and he said, ‘It just took that long to say it.’ For the pilot, for whatever is unresolved, I hope you do have a first-level visceral experience and it’s a world you want to come back to.

— Geoff Boucher