Piven eating sushi

Courtesy of New York Magazine

Jeremy Piven, the star of HBO’s popular Entourage series, has won his case against the producers of the Broadway show Speed-the-Plow, with a professional arbiter ruling that he did not breach his contract after becoming ill with mercury poisoning from his habit of eating too much fish.

The Actors’ Equity Association, a union representing stage performers, released the results of the arbitration on Thursday.

Although he was supposed to star in the production, Piven abruptly withdrew from it last December, citing exhaustion and disorientation, among other symptoms. In a rare move in show business, producers for the show filed a grievance with Actors’ Equity, which resulted in a deadlock decision and no penalty for the actor. The dispute then moved to arbitration.

For purposes of the arbitration, the producers of Speed-the-Plow requested a wide range of relevant information from Mr. Piven, including “medical records and documentation of Mr. Piven’s activities both during and after the run of the show.” The arbitrator ruling in favor of Mr. Piven found that he did not breach his individual employment contract nor did he breach the Actors’ Equity collective bargaining contract.

According to a statement issued by Mr. Piven’s publicist, the report issued by the arbitrator said that there was “sufficient evidence to establish that Piven’s decision” to leave the show “was a reasonable one; that it was reasonably based, and that the contrary evidence is insufficient.”

In a statement, Piven said, “I was completely exhausted and by the time I ended up in the hospital . . . I had arrhythmia and the doctor said, ‘Your body is definitely trying to catch up and it won’t let you–and you need to take care of yourself.’ I was pretty crippled from the first week of rehearsal on. Everyone that was involved in the process knows this. And that’s the truth that came out.”

The producers of Speed-the-Plow issued a statement, saying “While we respect the decision, we strongly disagree with it.”

Speed-the-Plow opened last October to favorable reviews and recovered its $2.26 million production costs by the time it ended its limited engagement in February.

Elizabeth M. Renieris

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