‘Luck’: Angry David Milch brought baseball bat to edit bay?

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The racetrack show ‘Luck’ has been put down, but even before that the show’s off-screen creative struggles may have been more interesting than the spare drama that reached the HBO show’s meager viewing audience.

How intense was the tug-of-war between show writer David Milch and director Michael Mann, two of Hollywood’s fiercest perfectionist mavericks? ‘Luck’ costar Nick Nolte said there was one afternoon when Milch cracked under deadline pressure and reached for a Louisville Slugger.


‘There was a day that David was going to kill Michael,’ Nolte said during a recent interview. ‘I guess I shouldn’t talk about this, but I’ve heard it going around so I guess it’s not a secret. It’s absolutely true. Michael hadn’t turned the film in [for an episode] and David was livid. He said to John [Ortiz], who plays the other trainer on the show, ‘I’m going to go down to the editing room and I’m going to kill Michael Mann.’'

Nolte continued: ‘The look on Milch’s face was intense, and John was pretty upset and he says, ‘David, you really don’t want to do that. You don’t have a gun, do you?’ And Milch tells him, ‘No, I don’t have a gun but I have a baseball bat and I’m going to kill him. If I’m not back in a few hours, get my lawyers on the phone.’ John was beside himself.’

What happened next?

‘An hour and a half later, Milch comes back and John asks him what happened,’ Nolte said. ‘Milch says something like, ‘I went down there and kicked in the door and Mann was there hunched over the Avid [editing console] and he looked back at me and then he just kept working.’ Milch stood there for something like 15 minutes and Mann kept looking back every minute or two but he also kept working. And finally I guess Milch realized that Mann was working as fast as he could.’

The actor said he later confirmed the incident with Milch and Mann and others on the ‘Luck’ team. Nolte, who is no stranger to bare-knuckle, raw-behavior moments, shrugged it all off as just a bad day on ‘Luck’ — and, he added, everyone was fortunate it wasn’t worse.

‘If Michael had been sitting there eating a sandwich when Milch kicked in the door, well, it could have been bad,’ Nolte said with a raspy laugh.


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— Geoff Boucher