Jeremy Piven Abruptly Abandons Broadway Play

UPDATED 12/18/2008 at 11:15 AM EST Originally published 12/18/2008 at 08:00 AM EST

Jeremy Piven Abruptly Abandons Broadway Play
Jeremy Piven
Joe Martinez /MPTV
It's a backstage drama worthy of Entourage: Leading man Jeremy Piven has suddenly split from the critical and commercial hit Broadway revival of David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow, citing doctors' diagnosis that he's suffering a high mercury count, Variety reported Thursday.

That same day, the play's producers issued the following statement: "We have been advised by Jeremy Piven’s medical representatives that he is seriously ill and is unable to fulfill his contractual obligation to Speed-the-Plow. Consequently, he has left the production 10 weeks early."

Playwright Mamet had expressed some skepticism about Piven's condition, which was revealed after the actor missed Tuesday night's and Wednesday's matinee performances – and then, reports the New York Post, flying back to Los Angeles Wednesday night.

"I talked to Jeremy on the phone, and he told me that he discovered that he had a very high level of mercury," Mamet told Daily Variety. "So my understanding is that he is leaving show business to pursue a career as a thermometer."

The Show Must Go On

Mamet added that "some really great actors will be helping out and stepping."

Also on Thursday, the show's producers announced that Dirty Rotten Scoundrels Tony-winner Norbert Leo Butz and Fargo Oscar nominee William H. Macy will assume Piven's part, that of a breathless Hollywood exec similar in temperament to Piven's agent Ari Gold on HBO's Entourage. (Butz starts in the play Dec. 23, with Macy beginning the role Jan. 13.)

The Post further reports that at Wednesday's matinee about 300 theater patrons requested box-office refunds following the announcement that Piven was MIA from the show, which also stars Broadway's Raul Esparza and Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss.

The show opened Oct. 23 and is scheduled to run through Feb. 22. A rep for Piven told the Post that the actor wished to continue in the show but that doctors advised him to leave the show immediately.

2006: Jeremy talks about his hard-partying ways

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