Producers Fail to Prove Jeremy Piven Gave Them Raw Deal

The actor claims victory in a dispute over leaving Speed-the-Plow due to mercury poisoning

Jeremy Piven
Photo: Michael Buckner/Getty

An off-off-off Broadway drama over Jeremy Piven’s sudden departure from Speed-the-Plow opened and closed Thursday with at least one positive review – from Piven.

An Actor’s Equity grievance committee met for about six hours in New York, ending with no unanimous decision and Piven leaving out the back door. But later the actor issued a statement claiming victory. He also gave an interview to The New York Times.

Accompanied by his publicist, Piven told the newspaper, “The biggest misconception was that this all came out of the blue in December and that I came down with this ‘sushi-gate’ stuff. It’s not sushi, it’s from eating fish for 20 years and not understanding the mercury threat.”

Not Partying

He also said of his performance while he was still in the play, “At times I was incapable of getting enough oxygen to get my lines out on stage, and sometimes I’d forget where I was This misconception that I was out partying was wrong. My problem was that as soon as I woke up, I wanted to figure out a way to get back into bed.”

He additionally quoted President Obama’s citing of mercury poisoning as a national threat, and referred to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s line that “no lie can last forever” in reference to how he will survive his attack by theater producers, The Times reports.

The statement from Piven’s rep said, “Producers did not prevail in their attempt to convince the Grievance Committee that Mr. Piven should not have dropped out of the play on the instruction of his doctors.”

A joint statement from the union and producers was more tempered, saying that after the panel of five union reps and five producer reps failed to reach a unanimous consensus, producers can now take their dispute to arbitration.

Producers reportedly requested the hearing after Piven, 44, left the David Mamet play last December. Piven, an Emmy-winning star of HBO’s Entourage, blamed the crippling health effects from what he called six-times the normal level of mercury in his system from a steady diet of raw fish.

“Mr. Piven is hopeful that the producers will ultimately recognize that he did the right thing by listening to the instructions from his doctors during his hospitalization,” the statement from Piven’s rep continued, “rather than continuing to perform and risk dire health consequences.”

The statement concludes: “Although Mr. Piven’s forced withdrawal from the show was an enormous personal disappointment since it was his life-long dream to perform on Broadway, he is glad that his illness has helped raise public awareness of the serious health risks caused by mercury exposure. He is also pleased that the Obama administration is seeking an international treaty to reduce mercury pollution, which it has recognized as the world’s gravest chemical problem.”

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