Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.

HBO’s new series Luck is about horse racing, but at today’s TCA panel, the sport in question was prize-fighting — whether reported friction between the strong personalities involved in the show led to ego clashes behind the scenes. The contenders: Stars Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, pilot executive producer/director Michael Mann and pilot executive producer/writer David Milch. All four acknowledged their reputations for being difficult, but insisted that peace reigns on Luck. Concerning rumors of contention on the pilot set, Mann said: “It’s ridiculous.” He explained, “There’s a time when any director wants the set to himself” and said a request to have non-participants step away at one point “got contorted into something else.” After the session, Mann said testily, “We’re not four difficult people. People who are insecure don’t have strong egos. We’re good at what we do, so we don’t have insecurity.”

During the panel, jokes were flying about the “difficult” label. Hoffman goaded a questioner to use a stronger word. “I think you are being diplomatic. Now you can just say ‘a prick.’ We saved the best for last,” Hoffman said. Obligingly, the questioner called Hoffman a prick — and said Nolte also has a reputation for being difficult. Cracked Nolte about Hoffman: “Yes, it’s difficult to communicate with him when he looks the way he does in mug shots.” On a more serious note, Hoffman repeated Mann’s mantra that four strong personalities can play nice because there’s no weak link. “When you are working with heavyweights, there’s no problem,” he said. “ A director has to be OK with a suggestion. If you suggest something to s director and his face clouds over and all the color drains from his face, I know he’s not a collaborator.”

Speaking for himself, Hoffman said there has also been no conflict in his transition to television. “I have no reason to butter up HBO, the contract is signed, it’s too late to fire me,” he said. “You cannot do your best work in the (movie) studio system. They buck heads with people they shouldn’t buck heads with. At HBO, once they give a go, there is no committee, no meetings.” Hoffman added that he had expected the TV series experience to be “20 pages a day, moviemaking on cocaine” but is finding it to be the opposite. Michael [Mann] hired all film directors. We were given our shot to do our best work.” At about the same time, Nolte went off on a riff about how the TV world is OK provided it doesn’t go 3D. “It disconnects the brain and causes psychotic states,” he said, and no one else on the panel had anything to add.