If Matthew Perry’s Chandler was the one on Friends who made you laugh the hardest, his real-life story will make you need a box of tissues. RIP.
1. His Life Wasn't Friendly
As perfect as Matthew Perry's life seemed in the 1990s, the laughs seemed to stop as soon as he left the set of Friends. In reality, off-camera Perry was facing multiple addictions, multiple heartaches, and the kind of loneliness that only a superstar can experience. His tragic, sudden ending only emphasized that, but his heartbreaking story started when he was very young.
2. He Barely Knew His Dad
Matthew Perry was born in Williamstown, Massachusetts to actor and singer John Bennet Perry and Suzanne Langford. Young Matthew Perry was looking for stability in his life. Sadly, it wouldn’t come from his parents. While his father was a familiar face to the public, starring in Old Spice commercials, he wasn't a familiar face to Perry.
You see, before Perry had his first birthday, his parents ended their marriage. This meant that Perry had to move up to Canada with his mother, where she worked for the Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, so she could continue her career there. But for Perry, it meant immediate trouble.
3. He Fought A Golden Boy
Up in Canada, Perry attended a rather prestigious public school called Rockcliffe Park. Two Dutch princesses had once attended there, and while Perry was a student there he met with Justin Trudeau, current Canadian Prime Minister and at the time, the son of his mother's own boss Pierre Trudeau.
It went horrible. As the story goes, Perry actually got into a fight with Justin, beating him up. Sadly, this was nothing compared to what he'd get up to when he got a taste of fame.
4. He Was On A Quest
Perry knew he wanted to be in show business, so at the tender age of 15 he moved to Los Angeles. While there, he did manage to finish high school, but at the same time he was pursuing his dream of being on TV.
After trying his hand at improv comedy, Perry landed his first big role. But he was about to learn a hard lesson. The show was a sitcom called Second Chance...and there's a reason you've never heard of it.
5. He Didn’t Get A Second Chance
Perry's first significant TV role was on a show that didn’t quite know what it was. It started out as the supernatural Second Chance and then morphed into the more reality based Boys Will Be Boys.
Ironically, the rebooted show didn’t get the second chance that its first incarnation promised: They canceled it after just one season. Perry took the cancellation hard, but he was no quitter. He wasn’t going to leave LA until he was a star. Yet he had no idea the disappointment coming next.
6. He Was Sure This Was It
Perry was completely convinced that this was the vehicle that would make him—and his co-stars—famous. He even walked around the set asking what they would all do once this film had made them all recognizable actors. Perry was in for a rude awakening.
7. He Was Forgotten
The problem with A Night In the Life of Jimmy Reardon was that it suffered from a split personality. The people making the film wanted an adult comedy drama, and the suits at the studio wanted a teen movie.
Once more, in the end, nobody got what they wanted. The film—and Perry—were both quickly forgotten. That’s two false starts for Perry. His next role, however, was something of a break. It just came at a very high cost.
8. He Took On Troubled Roles
By the late 1980s the TV sitcom Growing Pains was already a huge hit, and Perry got an offer to join the cast for a limited run. But this role couldn't have been darker. In his episodes he plays Sandy, a boyfriend of the family’s daughter Carol. Instead of providing tons of laughs, Perry’s Sandy crashes his car while inebriated and loses his life.
This role on Growing Pains provides some eerie omens of what was yet to come for Perry.
9. It Was Ominous
Secondly, one of Perry’s character’s traits is that he makes jokes when he is uncomfortable, which also sounds a lot like Chandler. The last coincidence is more ominous. Perry would go on to have a very difficult relationship with drink—just like his character Sandy. And the menacing clouds kept rolling in.
10. He Failed To Help
After literally dying on Growing Pains, Perry went on to become a cast regular on another sitcom. CBS's Sydney was supposed to be Valerie Bertinelli’s fabulous return to television after her successful run on One Day at a Time.
Sadly, there was nothing fabulous about this show. They canceled it after one season. Perry was quickly becoming the prince of the canceled show...but behind the scenes, things were heating up in other ways.
11. Cameron Diaz Once Punched Him
During this difficult time in his career, Perry nonetheless hd quite the habit of making out with beautiful women. Before she was a superstar, Perry made out with Gwyneth Paltrow in a closet. He also claims to have played tonsil hockey with Valerie Bertinelli—while her husband Eddie Van Halen was passed out in the next room.
On a date with Cameron Diaz, however, he didn’t get a chance to kiss her—because she accidentally punched him in the face.
12. He Struggled At TV
Maybe Perry was thinking about quitting show business, but he had one last chance. The show was LAX 2194—and it sounded like a disaster. It’s about people working as baggage handlers at the LA airport in…you guessed it…the year 2194. Perry made the pilot, and he probably felt now that all he had to do was wait for the inevitable rejection. Something else happened entirely.
13. He Got A Fateful Call
While Perry was waiting for the call about the likely failure of LAX 2194, he was helping a friend get ready for an audition. This audition was for another sitcom that was getting good word of mouth: Six of One. Perry’s friend was desperate to get a part on the show, and Perry was selflessly giving his time to help his friend out.
Then out of nowhere, he got a phone call. Six of One wanted to see him for one of the roles.
14. He Had To Nail It
David Crane and Marta Kauffman were having trouble casting one of the characters on Six of One—known for being sarcastic and funny—and for some reason no one had made the dialogue sparkle. Because he had been helping his friend, Perry knew the script off by heart. Destiny was calling.
15. They Wanted Him
As we know now, Perry absolutely nailed the audition for Six of One. Still, there was one problem with this. Perry still had his pilot for LAX 2194 in limbo, which meant he couldn't commit to their upcoming sitcom. But this is where Crane and Kauffman really showed just how committed they were to the actor.
All Perry had to do now was nail the audition...though that brought more trouble.
16. He Finally Got A Lucky Break
With Matthew Perry in their sights, Crane and Kauffman began asking around about this LAX pilot, trying to see how they could possibly nab him. Their solution came in an unlikely way. As it turned out, someone at Warner Bros had actually been at the taping of the LAX 2194 pilot. His note was this: you can hire Perry for Six of One, this show is never going anywhere.
Six of One, however, was going through its own changes.
17. He Had No Idea
Perry got the role and the show got a name change: Six of One was now simply called Friends. In fact, they hired Perry on Friday and he had to start work the very next Monday. Still, let’s not forget: at this time Perry had no idea that Friends would turn into an international phenomenon.
Still, Perry’s life was about to change big time. And he couldn't handle it.
18. He Knew What He Wanted
Before Friends, Perry had always been quite truthful about what he wanted in life. He wanted to be famous. He also wanted the money, the good seats at restaurants and he wanted all the attention. Yet a certain expression comes to mind when thinking about Perry at this time: “Be careful what you wish for”.
Perry was getting what he hoped for, but it had the potential to destroy his life. Only, he also had some secret weapons.
19. He Was Iconic
One thing that made Perry stand out from the rest of the Friends cast was his way of speaking. Chandler had a way of putting the emphasis on what most would consider to be the wrong word in a sentence. Like: “Could I BE any hungrier”?
It turned out that Perry developed this amusing habit as a child. Well, the habit caught on, and it would be no exaggeration to say that Perry changed the way Americans speak—maybe permanently. Perry also had bigger impacts on some very famous women.
20. Julia Roberts Pursued Him
One of the perks of being in a hit show is dating other celebrities. Friends was a huge hit and some major stars wanted to be guests on the show to increase their fame. One such star was Julia Roberts. Roberts messaged the show about appearing. But the actress had one big condition. She only wanted to be in Perry’s storyline.
An absolutely stunned Perry responded to this with three dozen roses. And what was Roberts’ quirky reply? She sent him a huge number of bagels. Before long, they were ramping up their relationship.
21. She Was A Step Above
You have to remember that Roberts was at this time a major motion picture star, while Perry was just famous for a sitcom. The two were not really on equal ground, but that didn’t seem to matter to Roberts. One thing that did keep them apart, however, was long distances. The two were in different parts of the country and there was no WhatsApp, no iMessage, and not even email existed yet.
So the two stars turned to one technology that was available at the time.
22. He Was On Cloud Nine
Hilariously enough, Perry and Roberts began faxing each other to flirt. Then, they finally met up face to face and their relationship took off. This was even before Roberts filmed her Friends episode, so any passion you see between them on her episode is pretty much real.
Perry even went to New Mexico to ring in the new year with Roberts’ family. It was getting serious, and Perry couldn’t have been happier. He was, after all, dating America’s sweetheart. So what went wrong?
23. His Insecurities Doomed Him
Perry couldn’t believe that a movie star like Roberts wanted to date a lowly TV star like him, even though he was on the highest-rated show on television. His response was self-destructive. The thought that she would eventually realize that he was not worthy of her became an obsession for Perry.
He was so sure she would break it off, the he broke it off first. Perry says he still remembers her confused face. Yet he rebounded quickly.
24. He Dated His Obsession
Another star who was on Friends was Baywatch actor Yasmine Bleeth—well, sort of. Now Bleeth never actually appeared on Friends, but viewers heard her name an awful lot. You see, Perry’s Chandler—a diehard Baywatch fan—had an obsession over Bleeth and talked about her a lot.
In 1996, a dream came true for Perry. The two got together and had a brief relationship. Yet all the love of beautiful women couldn't tamp down Perry's impish, sometimes vindictive side.
25. He Proved His Critics Wrong
Back in high school, Perry had been a bit of a class clown and one of his teachers, Dr Webb, had suggested that he didn’t have much of a future ahead of him if he didn't stop telling so many jokes.
With the success of Friends, Perry had already proved this teacher wrong, but Perry wanted to rub the fact into the teacher’s face. When Perry made the cover of People magazine, he sent a copy of the issue to Dr Webb. That didn't mean that fame got totally to Perry's head, and his next act proved it.
26. He Stuck By His Friends
The acting ensemble of Friends were a tightly knit group, and the six actors always had each other’s backs. So when Perry received an Emmy nomination for best actor, he had a problem with it: How could there be a best actor in an ensemble comedy?
Perry contacted the people at the Emmy awards and had his name removed from the nominations. The group had collectively decided they would only accept “supporting actor” nominations. The acting awards, however, weren’t always kind to the gang on Friends. Not at all.
27. He Escaped
Believe it or not, there are some people out there who don’t like the iconic sitcom Friends. The folks at the Razzie Awards—those infamous awards that celebrate the worst of things—were some of them. In fact, handed out a nomination for Worst Actor to five of the six members of Friends.
It's perhaps a testament to Perry's charm and skill that he was the only core cast member to escape the reviled Razzie awards. Even so, his luck was about to run out in other ways.
28. He Was In A Terrifying Accident
One of the biggest turning points of Perry's life happened in a flash. When Friends was at its frenzied peak of popularity, Perry had a jet-skiing accident, and long with the accident came some ongoing pain. Perry’s doctor innocently prescribed him with Vicodin for this, and no idea he was creating a monster.
You see, with this one prescription, Perry made a dark discovery. The pills made him feel better than he’d “ever felt in his life”. Thus began a terrifying downhard spiral.
29. He Had Huge Demons
It didn’t take long for Perry to become addicted to what the doctor had prescribed him. To combat this, Perry voluntarily went into rehab for addiction to Vicodin. In this case, the word “addiction” may be an understatement: He was taking 55 pills a day.
His 28 day stay at the rehab center may have helped him, but Perry now had a few more issues to deal with. You see, he was still looking for that “feel good” feeling. Since he couldn’t have Vicodin, he found something else.
30. His Issues Piled Up
Once Perry had beaten Vicodin, he soon had another hurdle to overcome. He began to take the infamous medicine OxyContin, which led him back to rehab. But that wasn't all. He now had a bona fide drinking problem, and at one point was downing a quart of the hard stuff every day.
Somehow through all this, Perry was still working, and the fans were still happy with their beloved Chandler. The suits at Warner Bros, however, had a big problem.
31. The Studio Was Worried For The Wrong Reasons
The big wigs at Warner Bros had a concern about Perry—but not about his rehab stints. Oh no, what they cared about was his appearance. See, Perry's pills usually made him thin, but when he was drinking he tended to put on weight. It was the latter problem that made the bosses come down on Perry. They wanted him to lose weight.
That’s when Friends buddy Jennifer Aniston offered to help by becoming his personal trainer. Some of Perry's other friends at the time, though, were only making things worse.
32. He Had Anger Issues
Farley made it through the filming, but passed five months later, before the film premiered. More than that, the executives wanted Perry to go ahead and promote it without Farley. Perry's reaction was heartbreaking. When he heard the news he was so angry, he put his fist through Jennifer Aniston’s dressing room wall. But to the public, he presented a totally different face.
33. He Made A Famous Bet
The two actors then made a bet: If the film was a success, Willis would have to appear on Friends and not receive any money for it. While this is a great story, some people think that it may not be entirely true. Of course, Willis did appear on Friends, but he got a paycheck. Still, the set of Friends wasn't always so light-hearted.
34. He Tried To Run Away
On the set of Friends, the cast was starting to notice that Perry was having problems. One by one, Perry’s Friends friends offered their support. Perry, however, couldn’t handle all the love and good will, especially when he wasn't ready to fix his problems just yet. His answer was pure terror.
To avoid the situation, he reached out to his manager. All he wanted was a movie—any movie—that was out of town.
35. His Body Began To Betray Him
Perry’s movie to avoid dealing with his problems was 2002’s Serving Sara with Elizabeth Hurley. Everything was going well during the Texas shoot, until Perry started having really bad stomach pain. Perry abruptly left the set, got on a plane, and checked himself into a hospital in Marina del Rey, California.
Or, that's the story he put forward at first. The truth was much different.
36. The Truth Came Out
So, why did Perry have to leave Texas for his stomach pains? The real reason is that he was checking himself into rehab. A few days later, Perry's publicist announced that Perry was indeed in rehab. The filming of Serving Sara had to continue, so the director just stuck to the scenes that didn’t include Perry.
Somehow, Perry finished filming Serving Sara, but he was now about to face another ending.
37. He Got The Last Word
The final episode of Friends, in 2006, had an audience of 52.5 million people. Perry had the distinction of saying the final line of the series. In the episode, the gang all decide to go for coffee and Chandler simply asks, “Where?”
If you don’t know why this is funny, it’s time to binge watch the 10 seasons of Friends. For fans, it was the end of an era. For the stars of the show, it was the end of a paycheck. Perry was free to do what he wanted, but this much freedom for Perry was extremely dangerous.
38. He Took An Insult
Perry soon realized he didn’t want the freedom to indulge in all his vices, so he got back on television. This was Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and Perry knew he wouldn’t be making the same big bucks he’d made back on Friends. Warner Bros offered Perry a measly $50,000 per episode to appear in the show.
At its peak, Friends had paid Perry over a million dollars per episode. That wasn't all.
39. The Studio Humiliated Him
Warner Bros knew they had to sweeten the deal to keep Perry on board for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, so they offered him $175,000 per episode. While it was clearly still much less than on Friends, Perry accepted the offer—but then he got some humiliating news. Matt LeBlanc was taking in $600,000 for his Friends spin off Joey.
That had to hurt, but not as bad as the next devastating event in his life.
40. He Had A Bitter Breakup
In 2013, Perry had been dating Mean Girls star Lizzy Caplan for about seven years, though they kept it very under wraps. Then, during an interview, Caplan did something very odd. She covered her ears when anyone mentioned the name "Matthew Perry".
The secret eventually came out: They had broken up a year before the interview. As it happened, this wasn't the first relationship, or breakup, Perry kept under the radar.
41. He Kept A Secret
In his memoir, Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing, Perry talks about a relationship that really shook him. For some reason, however, Perry failed to mention the woman’s name. Well, speculators have done their research, and the answer stunned fans. They decided it was fellow Canadian—and Scream star—Neve Campbell.
Back in 1999, the two were in Toronto making Three To Tango when sparks flew. The sad truth, however, was that Campbell thought Perry’s addiction was a problem and walked away.
42. He Had A Near-Death Experience
In 2018, Perry had an incident you don’t hear about everyday: His colon exploded. This led to him being in a coma for a whopping two weeks. While he was in the coma, doctors had to put him on an ECMO machine, a machine that performs the functions of your heart and lungs.
At the hospital there were a total of five patients on an ECMO machine—only Perry survived. Yet Perry's struggles with his inner demons kept raging.
43. He Faked It
In recent years, Perry issues continued to haunt him. In 2020, Perry was in rehab in Switzerland. While there, he pretended to have pain so he could get a prescription for his favorite pills—and he talked them into giving him 1,800 mg per day.
Later, when he needed surgery, they made the mistake of giving him the anesthetic propofol....and an utterly chilling moment, especially given his ultimate end, occurred.
44. His Heart Stopped
In the middle of this surgery, Perry's heart stopped. They performed emergency CPR, breaking eight of his ribs in the process. Perry woke up—11 hours later—and didn’t recognize his hospital room. That’s because they’d moved him to a different hospital. From then on, the doctors refused to give him any medication. But Perry was a man on a disturbing mission...
45. He Made A Quick Crossing
Perry left Switzerland when he knew he couldn't get his fix, and made the hospital he was flying to back in LA would give it to him. Once he’d confirmed that, Perry didn’t waste any time getting back to the states. He hired a private jet for $175,000 to get him there in privacy.
When he arrived at the hospital in LA, however, he grew more desperate. The doctors informed him they actually wouldn’t give him the amount of pills he thought he needed. His knee-jerk reaction was something like a rock bottom.
46. He Took A Desperate Round Trip
Perry had just spent $175,000 flying from Switzerland to LA only to find that the doctors there wouldn’t prescribe him such a huge amount of pills. So he jumped back on the plane—and spent another $175,000—to go back to Switzerland.
$350,000 on a couple of flights was just a drop in Perry’s Friends money. But he stood to lose so much more.
47. He Had A Nightmare Oscar Night
One of his low points came when he was in rehab and watching the Academy Awards with a few of his fellow addicts. This was the year that Julia Roberts won Best Actress for her role in Erin Brockovich. His ex-girlfriend was winning an Oscar and he was in rehab “sweating and twitching”. Somehow, worse was to come.
48. He Had A Jaw-Dropping Accident
By the time there were plans for a Friends reunion, Perry seemed to have all his ducks in a row. He wasn’t using medication, booze, and he even had quit his 60-smokes-a-day addiction. Days before the filming of the reunion began, Perry took a bite of peanut butter on toast. What happened next was literally something out of a nightmare: All of his teeth fell out.
As Perry confirmed in his memoir, "Yes, all of them".Perry had no teeth and had to film one of the most anticipated reunions in TV history in a few days.
49. His Reunion Appearance Was Troubling
Perry’s dentist had to remove all of the actor’s teeth, and even the implants attached to his jaw. Once the good dentist had removed pretty much everything in Perry’s mouth, Perry got a whole new set of teeth. This was all done at lightning speed before the taping of the reunion.
Perry got to the taping looking great—he just didn’t sound too great. The dental work caused his speech to sound like he was mumbling, which made some viewers think he’d downed a few shots before the show. Perry later confirmed and insisted that he had not had a relapse.
50. He Went Young
On October 28, 2023, the world got shocking news. Matthew Perry's body was found in his home, in a hot tub, at the age of 54. The passing of the witty, loving Perry stunned Friends fans and Perry's family and co-stars alike, even as questions (as in the Friends reunion) linger about any potential relapses.
There are, however, heartbreaking details to the scene.
51. Details Are Still Emerging
Although the responders to the scene indicated that there was no paraphernalia around the Perry's hot tub, they did indicate that there were prescriptions found in Perry's house, and thus they will be performing a toxicology report to try to understand his final moments. The medical examiner also listed his cause of death as "deferred," citing a need for further investigation.
Whatever the truth, Matthew Perry will always be beloved.
52. He Wanted To Be Remembered For One Thing
On a podcast interview with Tom Power just a year before his passing, Perry actually talked about his legacy. It's not what you might think. Although Perry admitted he knew Friends would probably come first, he wanted it to be "listed far behind the things I did to try to help other people".
As he put it, whenever someone "comes up to me and says, ‘Will you help me?’ I will always say ‘Yes, I know how to do that. I will do that for you, even if I can’t always do it for myself.’" He felt this was his real legacy over Friends, and wanted media to understand that. In classic Perry self-deprecation, he then added, "I know it won’t happen, but it would be nice".