Dustin Hoffman is still sore about the fact that his horse racing drama Luck was canceled before it reached the finish line.
In March 2012, HBO pulled the plug on the show after a first season that was mired in controversy over several horses that died on set. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals accused the producers of not taking proper care of their horses, and after a third died during the production of the second season, the drama, which was executive produced by David Milch and Michael Mann was canceled.
In an interview with Fox News, ostensibly to promote his directorial debut Quartet, Hoffman recalled the heartbreak of hearing the show, on which he starred as a horse betting baron, was canceled. He also blamed PETA and the tabloid site TMZ for spreading misconceptions about the treatment of the horses.
"If you Google Paulick Report, it’s a site for horse racing, and in that report is the real reason why the show was canceled," he said. "It was a collaboration between PETA and TMZ. It’s interesting, sites like TMZ, they’re mistaken for news. We did All The President’s Men and you had to have two sources and they don’t need any sources, they’re gossip, but the general public believes what they say."
Hoffman continued, saying, "It still deeply wounds me, not for myself, not for the show, but the pain they caused 400 crew people to have and I don’t think they lost a moment’s sleep. It’s completely distorted. Anyone who raises horses know they break their legs. The accusations they made were distorted. Every time we’d race the horses we’d rest them. They’d race 20 seconds, then we’d rest them for an hour."
TMZ responded to Hoffman's statements, defending its reports. "Truth is, the TMZ stories are in sync with what was reported on the Paulick Report," the site wrote on Thursday.
The Paulick Report's final statement on Luck did defend the show, accusing PETA of stretching the truth in the service of its mission.
"Despite the finality of what happened, I can’t in good conscience allow the radical animal rights group PETA – and the journalists who faithfully report whatever the agenda-driven organization tells them – to have the last word on the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the three horses over the two-year period that Luck was being filmed," the site's owner, Ray Paulick, wrote last March following the cancelation. "It wasn’t until the news cycle was several days old that PETA’s outrageous claims of Luck using unfit, sore, drugged horses was brought into question by anyone... By then, however, the lies had been repeated often enough that people believed them."
When Luck went off the air, HBO also defended the treatment of the animals.
"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," the network said in a statement. "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."
Earlier in January, a member of the American Humane Association sued HBO, accusing the network of covering up alleged animal abuses on the set of Luck.
HBO had no comment.
UPDATED: PETA has issued the following statement in light of Hoffman's remarks: Dustin Hoffman must have a really cold streak running through his heart, as he isn’t hesitant to disrespect whistleblowers and animals to advance his agenda. PETA wrote to him on two separate occasions urging him to use his position to help improve welfare conditions for the horses on the set of Luckafter we were contacted by a dozen whistleblowers who were part of his production. Had he taken PETA’s warnings seriously instead of ignoring them, the life of the third horse could have been spared, the show might still be on the air, and his crew might still have their jobs.