Why Dustin Hoffman Is Doing TV: You Can't Do Your Best Work in Studio System

TCA: Oscar winner vents about the film business

Why is Academy Award winner Dustin Hoffman taking his talents to the small screen for HBO's "Luck"? The actor gave a blunt answer Friday.

"You cannot get a shot at doing your best work in the studio system," he said at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour. "There's committees, there's meetings, they're on the set … they get involved in a quasi — at least I think it is — creative way. They buck heads with people they shouldn't be bucking heads with.

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"And with HBO, once they give a go, there is no committee, there's no meetings, these guys are allowed to try to do their best work and they then give it to us," he said, referring to executive producers David Milch and Michael Mann. He shared the "Luck" panel with them and co-star Nick Nolte.

Hoffman said he initially thought working on a TV show would be incredibly fast-paced, "like making movies on cocaine."

"It's the opposite," he said. "We did the best we could with as much time as we had."

The HBO panels seemed almost designed to illustrate that the wall separating film from TV — or at least from premium cable networks like HBO — is disintegrating. Panelists included Ed Harris and Julianne Moore talking about "Game Change," their Sarah Palin drama, and Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen discussing "Hemingway & Gellhorn," about the tumultuous relationship between the two writers. Ricky Gervais and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, best known for their TV work, also appeared.

Hoffman stressed that he wouldn't do just any TV. Asked if TV has become a viable alternative to movies, he replied, "From what I understand, not network."

The rest of the discussion was equally blunt — if not straightforward. Nolte took questioners on a long and winding discursion about how television is becoming an option for movie actors "as long as it doesn't go 3D."

Nolte, in a gruff, scraping voice, elaborated: "3D actually creates… disconnects the eyeball, the lenses from the brain so that whole system doesn't function. And they're finding that causes a psychotic state." He sounded, at times, like a man who might have done a little 3D.

Milch, the creator of HBO's "Deadwood," and Mann, the director of "Miami Vice" and "Heat," denied reports that they squabbled so much during the making of "Luck" that Milch banned Mann from the set.

"No, he shot him," joked Nolte.

"He winged me," added Milch.

Mann said the stories were "ridiculous."

"Luck," follows gambler Chester "Ace" Bernstein (Hoffman), who returns to horseracing after three years in prison and seeks revenge on the people he blames for putting him there. Nolte plays a trainer uniquely attuned to his horse. It debuted last month in a special preview, and premieres Sunday, Jan. 29.