Mercury-Saturated Jeremy Piven Pulls Out of 'Plow'

Life seems to be imitating art for Jeremy Piven.

In a move deserving of its own "Entourage" episode, Piven pulled out of his starring role in David Mamet's Broadway play "Speed-the-Plow" Wednesday, citing doctors' diagnosis that he's suffering from a high mercury count, according to Variety.

"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 ten weeks early," the show's producers said in a statement to

In an interview Wednesday with Variety, Mamet took an irreverent tone.

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

According to the EPA, the most common way people ingest mercury is by eating fish containing methylmercury (most often tuna or swordfish) or by breaking products containing elemental mercury (like, as Mamet suggested, a thermometer.)

Mercury is one of the most dangerous toxins on earth. How much damage it can do to a person depends on when they are exposed (as a fetus, child or adult), how they are exposed (whether it's swallowed, touched or inhaled) and how long the person is exposed.

At its worse, inhaled mercury can cause brain damage or death. Swallowing mercury can cause permanent kidney damage or death. However, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, most exposure to mercury builds up over periods of years. In that case, mercury poisoning can cause numbness, tremors, blindness and memory problems.

Mercury poisoning treatment can last for months and usually consists of extended use of "chealator" drugs, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

It's not known how serious Piven's case is. His publicist confirmed Piven "has not been feeling well and though he'd like to continue his role in 'Speed-the-Plow,' his doctors have advised him that he should end his run immediately."

She referred questions regarding his condition to Dr. Carlon Colker, the primary internist who has been treating Piven. Colker is the medical director of Peak Wellness of Greenwich, Conn., as well as a champion competitive bodybuilder. He was unavailable for comment Thursday afternoon.

Piven's 'Speed-the-Plow' Part to Be Picked Up By Macy, Butz

Tony Award winner Norbert Leo Butz and Academy Award nominee William H. Macy will take on Piven's part, that of a Hollywood studio exec almost as manic as super-agent Ari Gold, the character Piven plays on HBO's "Entourage." Butz starts in the play Dec. 23; Macy picks up the role Jan. 13.

In September, the actor picked up his third consecutive Emmy for his work on "Entourage," and, in his acceptance speech, alluded to the fact that small-screen acting talent doesn't necessairly translate to the stage, perhaps foreshadowing his abrupt departure from "Speed-the-Plow."

"I just got off a plane from New York in which I'm doing a play," Piven said. "And what's so interesting is that I'm in the midst of this rehearsal and I'm feeling like maybe I should go into roofing, I'm so bad. That's what it feels like right now."

Additional reporting contributed by Lauren Cox.