Entourage star shows massive amounts of mercury in his bloodstream.

NEW YORK CITY- December 19, 2008

Two actors - Norbert Leo Butz and William H. Macy - will replace Jeremy Piven who has unexpectedly left the cast of the hit Broadway revival of "Speed-the-Plow," producer Jeffrey Richards announced Thursday.

Piven, star of HBO's "Entourage," abruptly departed the critically praised production of Mamet's satiric comedy over the weekend, less than two months after the show opened.

"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,"' Richards and the show's other producers said in a statement.

"Consequently, he has left the production 10 weeks early."

In an interview, Richards said Piven had collapsed Monday at his home and had been under the care of his doctor, Carlon Colker.

The doctor told Variety, the show business trade paper, the 43-year-old actor has been suffering from high levels of mercury.

He said the actor had been "a trooper and did everything he could to fight extreme fatigue, among other things, since the condition was diagnosed."

Butz, a Tony winner for his role in "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," will play Piven's role Dec. 23-Jan. 11, while Macy, a veteran of many Mamet plays including "American Buffalo" and "Oleanna," takes over for the rest of the limited engagement, Jan. 13-Feb. 22.

"These are our white knights," Richards said.

"It's about coming and helping a play that has lost a star. We are very fortunate to have two great actors to do the show."

Richards said Piven had not missed any performances until Tuesday.

Piven's spokeswoman, Samantha Mast, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Mamet's three-character play about Hollywood glamour, sex and power also stars Elisabeth Moss and Raul Esparza.

Until Butz joins the cast on Tuesday, Piven's role of ambitious producer Bobby Gould will be played by understudy Jordan Lage.

"Speed-the-Plow," directed by Neil Pepe, opened Oct. 23 to enthusiastic notices and has been doing respectable business, grossing upward of $500,000 a week.

The $2.26 million production was on the verge of recouping its costs before Piven left, Richards said, and still hopes to before the run ends in February.

It has been an up-and-down fall for Mamet on Broadway.

A revival of his "American Buffalo," featuring John Leguizamo, Cedric the Entertainer and Haley Joel Osment, opened last month to a thumbs-down reception and closed a week later.

The playwright had his own take on Piven's illness, telling Variety: "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."

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