NEW YORK - Jeremy Piven is defending his reputation against skeptics who think he used mercury poisoning to get out of the Broadway revival of "Speed-the-Plow."

On ABC's "Good Morning America" Thursday, Piven said he had been suffering high levels of mercury, six times the normal limit. The 43-year-old actor said he was diagnosed with mercury poisoning the first week of rehearsals for the play and finally succumbed to the illness when he passed out in his home.

On doctors' orders, Piven abruptly departed the critically acclaimed production of Mamet's satiric comedy in December, less than two months after the show opened in New York.

He said: "I've never not completed anything in my life. . . . I wanted the show to continue forever and they pulled me out of this thing. That's the truth."

Piven denied reports saying the "Entourage" star had been partying late at night and was bored with the play.

He also said fish was his only source of protein for the past 20 years, but he hasn't had any in five months.

He said he's embarrassed by the bad press and "wanted to come here and say the truth, which is I was brought to my knees, from the second week of rehearsal. . . . And I didn't think I would make it through previews. And I did. And I was proud of that."

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