For those of you who haven’t been following “Sushigate,” let’s review: News broke last week that television star Jeremy Piven (of "Entourage" fame) had pulled out of his role in the Broadway production of David Mamet’s “Speed-the-Plow.” According to Piven and celebrity doctor/diet pill enthusiast Carlon Colker, a nasty case of mercury poisoning rendered the actor “ paralytic” and unable to perform until February or March (when, conveniently, Piven will begin filming the new season of his TV show). Rumors are now swirling around the New York theatre scene that Piven was complaining about being “ bored out of his mind” on Broadway, and that he’d been shopping around for a replacement actor. Sound fishy? You bet it does.
Given his reputation as an avid sushi fan, Piven’s creative excuse may seem plausible — if you don’t know the facts about mercury and other naturally occurring toxins. But David Mamet is in the know. When reached for comment by Variety last week, the legendary playwright said:
“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.”
Mamet was definitely on to something: If Piven’s story were true, he would go down in American history as the first documented sufferer of sushi-induced mercury poisoning. Ever.
But will he? That depends: Exactly, how big a sushi fan is Jeremy Piven?
As readers of the Philadelphia Daily News, Washington Post, and Chicago-Sun Times are learning today, Piven would have to eat 108 pieces of tuna sushi roll every week, for his entire lifetime, to introduce any new health risks from the traces of mercury that have always been in ocean fish.
And Piven’s reckless claims are playing games with public health. Our latest report on mercury and seafood, “Tuna Meltdown,” showed that seafood scare stories come at a shocking price to the health of America’s poorest children. Anyone steering Americans away from the fish counter, whether it’s an attention-starved actor or the usual gaggle of green group activists, is depriving them of proven health benefits from omega-3 fatty acids in fish.
As we’ve been telling the media, someone should send Piven the memo if he hasn’t gotten it already: The next time he’s bored at a job, he ought to try renegotiating his contract instead of making outlandish health claims. Like other (less whiny) actors do all the time.