Dead horses might have ended the HBO ‘Luck’ series, but all the actors and actresses on the set still felt lucky to work with them. Racehorses are amazing athletes, but like their human counterparts, they can be injured or even killed while performing. Such is the case with the racehorse stars of HBO’s ambitious series about life at the track. What will actors Nick Nolte and Dustin Hoffman do now that Luck has been canceled? Hopefully, both Hollywood screen legends will be able to successfully move on with their careers despite the celebrity scandal.
HBO announced on Wednesday, March 14th, just days after a third horse was killed during production, that the Luck television series had been cancelled with all future production runs over. Despite boasting an all-star cast and the right script for a creative quasi-historical attempt to make a show about horse racing that would be a first for cinematography, show producers called it quits after several of the race horses they featured died while working on separate scenes.
The series was poised to attract a Sunday night Sopranos crowd, but oddly it did not. With actors Nick Nolte and Dustin Hoffman taking lead roles, it seems hard to imagine that the new HBO series Luck already lost backing, but it has. Nolte is well-known for his work on films like The Prince Of Tides and The Way Of The Peaceful Warrior. He also starred with actor Eddie Murphy in the funny cop movies 48 Hours and Another 48 Hours. Hoffman had hits ranging from dressing in drag for the movie Tootsie to playing the fictional character Captain James Hook in the modern interpretation of Peter Pan Hook starring comedic genius Robin Williams. He also played Greg Focker’s dad in all the film sequels to Meet The Fockers, playing the husband to Ben Stiller‘s mother Barbra Streisand.
But acting in a television series that features actors interacting with many of the same animals week after week is not as easy as it sounds. “During the filming of the first season, there were reportedly four humane officers monitoring the use of horses. We are told that the production company, to its shame, did not always follow their advice, and this accounts, at least in part, for the two deaths during filming. These officers had rejected as unfit a number of horses who, we are now told, have been returned to the ‘Luck’ set for the filming of the second season,” according to the LA Times.
In the early years of film history, animals did not have the protections they do today, so their deaths during filming were higher. The third horse that was killed on the set of ‘Luck’ apparently reared up and fell over. The head injury the animal suffered when he hit the pavement was so severe, the horse had to be put down.
Animals have been among Hollywood’s biggest stars. Lassie and Trigger come quickly to mind. Additionally, countless other animals of different sizes and breeds have graced the silver screen for decades.
Regarding the tragedies, HBO issued a statement saying, “While we maintained the highest safety standards possible, accidents unfortunately happen and it is impossible to guarantee they won’t in the future.”
Obviously, horse lovers and animal rights activist’s inquiries about what happened to the majestic creatures causes so much negative publicity for the cable TV network that they had ample reason to consider ditching the series. Cancelling mid-season was the politically correct as well as most humane move the producers could have made as any further leaks about violating protocol for using animals in movie production.
As for what the two leading men will do next as film projects, its anyone’s guess — including theirs. The series was not getting the high ratings that show producers or the network executives had expected, and having HBO say that if the show kept filming that they could give no guarantee that they would not harm more horses.
On a plus note, “The incident has put a fresh spotlight on the American Humane Assn., the nonprofit group that currently monitors more than 2,000 productions that use animal performers and is partly funded by the Screen Actors Guild…” says the LA Times.
But, “the AHA, which has been criticized in the past for having overly close ties with the industry it’s charged with monitoring, has vigorously defended its handling of the horses on Luck.”
For that reason, it is likely that the show’s end won’t necessarily end the careers of either Dustin Hoffman or Nick Nolte simply because both award-winning actors participated in the gambling theme show. It is more likely that their publicists will spin their participation in the project as willingly ending for animal rights rather than in spite of the controversial incidents.
With today’s film animal protection laws, there is little excuse for three horses to die — especially on one set — in less than two years. Something on the HBO ‘Luck’ set was just not right, and it’s too bad three beautiful racehorses had to pay for it with their lives.
To that end, although Hollywood screen writers are still likely to present scripts that include the use of live animals in the future, hopefully production teams will be less likely to use them after the sad events.
What do you think? Will the horse deaths on the set of Luck cause Nick Nolte and Dustin Hoffman career trouble in the future (knowing how many pro-animal rights activists there are in Hollywood)? Should live animals ever be put at risk for the sake of a television show or film? Let other readers know your thoughts in the comments section below.