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Jeremy Piven: Here, at the curtain call on Speed-The-Plow's opening night, he doesn't look sick.
If you're going to get cute, don't get cute with David Mamet.
Actor Jeremy Piven started his Broadway run in Mamet's Speed-The-Plow in October — one of the few Broadway (non-musical) plays I can remember seeing television commercials for outside New York. He was appearing with Elisabeth Moss, of AMC's critically adored Mad Men, and Raul Esparza, a respected theater actor. It sure looked promising.
But this week, Piven suddenly left the play, citing illness — more specifically, a "high mercury count."
Now, it's important to understand the position of Jeremy Piven in the world of celebrity. He's a multiple-Emmy-winning actor for his work in HBO's Entourage (which is the origin of "hug it out," a phrase you may hear dropped now and then), but he's also probably the most popular target of "why does this person keep winning Emmys?"-style ranting every year.
He further has a tendency to appear in ridiculous stories like this 2006 gem, in which it was reported in the New York Post that he almost got into a fight over the line for the bathroom at a club. Oh, and he recently told Us magazine that he didn't know how he accidentally wound up at Britney Spears' birthday party.
He's a bit of a love-to-hate kind of guy.
So after he gave the "too much mercury" explanation for bailing out of the play, Variety went to Mamet himself for a reaction. Mamet's somewhat skeptical response? ""I talked to Jeremy on the phone, and he told me that he discovered that he had a very high level of mercury. So my understanding is that he is leaving show business to pursue a career as a thermometer."
And you thought only television and movies could reach that level of sophistication.
Update: We now know that the role Piven is abandoning will be taken over, beginning December 23rd, by the Tony-winning Norbert Leo Butz, and then by Mamet veteran William H. Macy. That's right: If you had your heart set on seeing Piven in Speed-The-Plow between January 13 and February 22, you will now have to settle for William H. Macy. Try to contain your grief.
Also, for all the skepticism with which this announcement was greeted, Piven's doctor says it was for real.