December 17, 2008, 10:11 pm

Jeremy Piven Leaves ‘Speed-the-Plow’

Jeremy PivenSuffering from a high mercury count, Jeremy Piven has left “Speed-the-Plow.”(Todd Heisler/The New York Times)

UPDATE: A publicist for Jeremy Piven has confirmed that the actor has left “Speed-the-Plow.” In an email message, she writes: “Jeremy 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.” The publicist referred any questions regarding Mr. Piven’s condition to his doctor.

Jeremy Piven has left the Broadway revival of David Mamet’s comedy “Speed-the-Plow,” the Web site of Variety reported on Wednesday. Mr. Piven, who plays a Hollywood executive in the comedy, which also stars Raúl Esparza and Elisabeth Moss, had missed Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s performances of the show and will not return.

Mr. Mamet told Variety that Mr. Piven, the “Entourage” star, had left the show because he had been feeling ill recently due to a high mercury count. “I talked to Jeremy on the phone, and he told me that he discovered that he had a very high level of mercury,” Mr. Mamet said, according to Variety. “So my understanding is that he is leaving show business to pursue a career as a thermometer.”

At a recent matinee of the play, Mr. Piven was visibly perturbed with two theatergoers who arrived late for the performance, staring at his watch and tapping his foot while the latecomers took their seats.

Paul Esselman, a reader who was at Saturday’s matinee of “Speed-the-Plow,” writes that Mr. Piven’s impromptu remarks to late-arriving theatergoers was “all in good fun,” and “better than any stand up routine.”

Variety said that “Speed-the-Plow” would continue in Mr. Piven’s absence. A replacement for him has not been named.


  1. 1. December 18, 2008 8:53 am Link

    Mr. Itzkoff,

    Did you attend the matinee which you refer to in your column? Based on your description of Mr. Piven’s reaction to the latecomers, I would suspect that you were not in attendance.

    I was in attendance and in order to set the record straight, Mr. Piven did not act “perturbed” with two latecomers - yes he did come to the edge of the stage and look at his watch, but in a joking way. He recieved uproarious applause and laughs. What you obviously missed was the unique interaction of the cast and the audience during a break to fix a technical problem. Mr. Piven spoke to the latecomers and the cast recapped what they missed. In all, Mr. Piven and the rest of the cast made it a wonderful experience for all in attendance.

    — P. Esselman
  2. 2. December 18, 2008 9:03 am Link

    The bust on this guy is that he plays arrogant creeps so well because he’s not actually acting.

    — J.J.
  3. 3. December 18, 2008 9:10 am Link

    This “actor” is not worthy of the name. I bought a christmas present (tues night ticket) for my husband who is both a fan of david mamet and mr. piven’s work on entourage. When Mr. Piven backed out last minute on Tuesday night, my husband exchanged the ticket for Wednesday night, and then the guy cancels forever with this utterly ridiculous excuse. Truly unbelievable. Two nights and a well-intended holiday gift wasted on a self-absorbed, selfish, narcissistic person. Shame on you, Mr. PIven.

    — celeste1023
  4. 4. December 18, 2008 9:21 am Link

    My wife and I are headed to NYC this coming weekend specifically to see “Speed the Plow.” While you have to feel bad for whatever actor steps into the role and the ticket buyers, like us, who hoped to see Mr. Piven on stage, concern for Jeremy Piven’s health outweighs the major disappointment of missing an opportunity to see this cast intact.

    — TA
  5. 5. December 18, 2008 9:22 am Link

    I have just recently purchased tix for this show in January as a Xmas present for my husband who loves Piven. I doubt he will want to see the show now that he will not be performing. Can I cancel and get my money back?

    — D.D
  6. 6. December 18, 2008 9:29 am Link


  7. 7. December 18, 2008 9:31 am Link

    We have tickets for tonight’s show. But we will be going anyway because my husband and I both like Norbert Leo Butz and enjoyed him so much in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

    But this is one of the most ridiculous and disgraceful excuses I’ve ever heard from an alleged actor.

    I hope for his sake he is really sick, because these broadway producers will go after him big time.

    — Renee Newman
  8. 8. December 18, 2008 9:59 am Link

    The current production of “Speed-the-Plow” was Jeremy Piven’s Broadway debut. This is the first Broadway revival of David Mamet’s play, one of our country’s most respected playwrights. Piven is an award-winning actor, but the stated reason for his sudden departure frankly sounds somewhat dubious. This is a three-character play and he is the best-known actor in the cast. Thus his absence is likely to negatively impact ticket sales, despite the strong reviews of co-stars Elizabeth Moss and particularly Raul Esparza.

    I’m with Mamet in expressing his skepticism regarding Piven’s hasty retreat. This past Broadway season saw numerous screen actors tackle the stage, most notably Frances McDormand and Morgan Freeman, both Oscar winners. Neither received glowing reviews, yet both completed their respective runs. The current economic climate seems a particularly inopportune one in which to suddenly depart one of the only non-musical productions on Broadway. Let’s hope the gap left by Piven’s departure is swiftly filled with a gifted, dedicated actor who will turn this setback to the production into an opportunity to shine.

    — Jack Wernick, educator
  9. 9. December 18, 2008 10:05 am Link

    …but even if fake, you have to hand it to Mr. Piven, this is a brilliant excuse: High Mercury Count.

    Lay off the fish, it’s bad for ya.

    — (S)wine
  10. 10. December 18, 2008 10:05 am Link

    “So my understanding is that he is leaving show business to pursue a career as a thermometer.”…To make a joke out of this serious situation is disturbing. What few people seem to know is that mercury poisoning is an ever-present and growing result of an out of control coal burning industry (read “Big Coal” by Jeff Goodell). There is NO level of safe mercury poisoning and mercury is a neurotoxin. During the Bush administration the EPA did an incomprehensible about face, in defiance of solid science and the law, and said that “…in its expert judgment mercury emissions are not hazardous to the public health”. The EPA has become the key spokesman for the coal industry, NOT an advocate for the public.

    If Piven’s doctor says it is serious, he and WE should listen. Now Piven, next us.

    — J Jones
  11. 11. December 18, 2008 10:09 am Link

    We came to NYC specifically to see this show too. At the performance we attended several weeks ago, Piven and the other actors were visibly annoyed at the end of the play when a few members of the audience were putting on their coats and leaving during the curtain calls.

    The show will survive without Piven. Raúl Esparza is the indispensable actor in this show.

    — PB
  12. 12. December 18, 2008 10:42 am Link

    I’m surprised and disheartened with all the people who feel Jeremy Piven owes them a performance. How selfish and self-absorbed. “Me! Me! Me!” One would think that with an Obama administration, the bank failures, the Madoff Ponzi scheme, auto industry bailout and recession, there would be no trace of the attitude that defined the 1980s among the general public. How naive of me.

    If the actor is ill and feels he cannot continue effectively—and is advised so by his doctor—so be it. David Mamet’s quip is typical: deadpan and uproarious, and it’s very unclear if he’s casting doubt on the legitimacy of Piven’s illness. So let it go; enjoy the production with the other two leads and understudy. (After all, it’s not “The Jeremy Piven Show”); and appreciate their efforts and support Broadway.

    If Piven is indeed faking it will come out sooner or later, and he’ll have a tough time working on stage as a consequence.

    — Steve
  13. 13. December 18, 2008 10:49 am Link

    Let’s hope that the producers and Mr. Mamet can somehow convince Kevin Spacey to cross the pond (even briefly) to recreate his role from the stellar revival of Speed-the-Plow at the Old Vic last year. I also saw the latest Broadway version, and although Jeremy Piven was perfectly adequate, it was Raul Esparza who was truly outstanding (as was Jeff Goldblum in the same part at the Old Vic). A Spacey-Esparza Speed-the-Plow would be the hottest ticket in town.

    — Deborah Broide

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