Matthew Perry was adored the world over, and achieved incredible fame thanks to his portrayal of Chandler Bing in Friends.
Yet though he enjoyed roaring success in his professional life, his personal life and struggles make for altogether more tragic reading.
The 54-year-old was found unresponsive in the jacuzzi of his LA home at the weekend. His passing has since been confirmed, with the entertainment industry at large now in mourning.
Perry’s battles with addiction and alcoholism were well known – the actor had discussed them candidly over the past few years – and perhaps the saddest irony about his troubled saga is the fact that he brought joy to so many people, not least via his most iconic TV role, and yet was forced to live with such pain.
Last year, Perry released his memoir, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, where he spoke openly about his fight with addiction. Within the pages of the book, he also revealed a certain truth about Friends co-star Jennifer Anniston…
Though mostly loved for his deadpan humor in his role as Chandler Bing of Friends, Matthew Perry, 54, actually started his career in the 1987 TV series Second Chances and its sequel, Boys will be Boys.
Born in 1969 to a Canadian mother and American father, the actor made his film debut in the 1988 film A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon, which also stars the late River Phoenix.
He then had appearances in other TV shows like Growing Pains, Sydney with Valerie Bertinelli and Beverly Hills, 90210.
His big break came as the sharp-tongued Chandler in Friends, a role he played for 10 seasons of the show’s run, from 1994 to 2004.
His decades-long career includes starring roles in the 1997 romcom Fools Rush In with Salma Hayek, and in 2000 and 2004 he played alongside Bruce Willis in The Whole Nine Yards and its sequel, The Whole Ten Yards.
Perry, who was not married and had no children, had a long history of drug and alcohol abuse, and had been in rehab 15 times.
His toxic relationship with alcohol started as a 24-year-old when he was first cast in Friends.
“I could handle it, kind of. But by the time I was 34, I was really entrenched in a lot of trouble,” Perry confessed. “But there were years that I was sober during that time. Season 9 was the year that I was sober the whole way through. And guess which season I got nominated for best actor? I was like, ‘That should tell me something.’”
In 2018, he had a brush with death due to a gastrointestinal perforation, (where a hole develops in an organ). He said he spent two weeks in a coma and five months in the hospital, and then had a colostomy bag for nine months.
Speaking with People at the time, he said he was lucky to be alive. “The doctors told my family that I had a two per cent chance to live,” Perry shared. “I was put on a thing called an ECMO machine, which does all the breathing for your heart and your lungs. And that’s called a Hail Mary. No one survives that.”
Lovingly speaking about the support of his friends from the hit show he starred, Perry explained that though his physical appearance reflected sobriety and times in the trenches with addiction, he tried to hide his condition.
He said his cast mates “were understanding, and they were patient.”
“It’s like penguins. Penguins, in nature, when one is sick, or when one is very injured, the other penguins surround it and prop it up. They walk around it until that penguin can walk on its own. That’s kind of what the cast did for me,” Perry said.
Indeed, it seems as though the cast of Friends who, as the title suggests, were the best of friends on-screen, were also extremely close off-screen.
Truth about Jennifer Anniston
In the years that followed Friends – arguably the years in which Perry was most at risk of struggling in silence – he revealed that co-star Jennifer Anniston stayed in close contact with him through the ups-and-downs of his condition.
“She was the one that reached out the most,” he said in an October 2022 interview with Diane Sawyer. “You know, I’m really grateful to her for that.”
It was in fact Anniston who was the first of Perry’s co-stars to confront him when his heavy drinking became evident during the filming of Friends.
“Jennifer, she says, ‘We know you’re drinking,’” Sawyer said, referring to a revelation made in Perry’s book.
“Yeah, imagine how scary a moment that was,” Perry responded.
Sadly, the much-loved actor lost his long fight at the weekend, passing away at the age of 54.
TMZ reported that first responders rushed to Perry’s address after a call reporting a cardiac arrest. Perry had been playing pickleball earlier that day, before sending his assistant out on an errand when he returned home.
A source close to Perry’s pickleball parter stated (via The Mirror): “I spoke to the woman he played with this morning and every morning. She is in shock, adored Matt…she said he had been fatigued today and over the past week. A little more than usual. He played for one hour, then went home.”
Sources said no drugs were found at the scene and no foul play is suspected.
Rest in peace, Matthew Perry. Thanks for all the memories and laughs. You will be missed!