January 17, 2009 / 6:36 AM / 10 years ago

Piven hit with grievance for leaving Broadway: NYT

Actor Jeremy Piven arrives at the special presentation screening of the film "RocknRolla" at the 33rd Toronto International Film Festival, in this file photo from September 4, 2008. REUTERS/ Mike Cassese

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The producers of the Broadway play “Speed the Plow” filed a grievance with Actors’ Equity against actor Jeremy Piven, who left the Broadway show in the middle of its run, citing health concerns due to mercury poisoning, The New York Times reported on Saturday.

Jeffrey Richards, one of the lead producers of the David Mamet play, said in a statement that a grievance had been filed with the union over Piven’s departure last month and that a date for proceedings by the union was still to be determined.

Citing a person who had been briefed on the producers’ concerns, the Times reported they wanted an independent evaluation by Equity of the medical evidence and of Piven’s alleged history of trying to leave the show early.

It was unclear whether financial compensation was being sought, and Richards was not available for comment.

Piven’s spokeswoman Samantha Mast called the claims “absurd and outrageous,” the Times said, adding that Piven quit the show due to “medical necessity on the advice of his doctors, after he was hospitalized.”

The Emmy-award winning star of HBO’s “Entourage,” who has been the target of jokes by television hosts and comedians since leaving “Speed the Plow,” told ABC this week that the mercury in his system was six times the normal limit.

Richards alleged last month that Piven had complained of exhaustion and asked to be released from the show, due to close in late February, a week or two early.

An Equity spokeswoman said a grievance committee was obligated to meet and consider the matter within 30 days, but offered no comment on the specifics of the case.

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