On October 28th, 2023, Matthew Perry – one of the legends of comedic acting and an advocate for addiction prevention – was found dead in his apartment.
Perry, known iconically for his role as Chandler in the hit sit-com Friends, was struggling with addiction for a lot of his adult life, but was on a long sober road. However, there is nothing currently conclusive to suggest that any substances – subscription or not – were in his system when he passed. Nonetheless, the autopsy is still ongoing. Today we’re going to take a look at this truly legendary person’s life, and mourn a man that was taken far too early at the age of 54. As the co-writers of Friends, Marta Kauffman and David Crane, said in a statement recently: this is the ‘one where our hearts are broken’.
Matthew Perry, a name that resonates with millions around the world, is not just an actor but a cultural icon whose work has left an undoubtable mark on the landscape of television, film and the world of addiction. Best known for his portrayal of Chandler Bing on the immensely popular sitcom Friends, Perry’s career extends far beyond the confines of Central Perk and those 5 other loveable mate’s of his.
Matthew Langford Perry was born on August 19, 1969, in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Raised in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Perry’s childhood was marked by the influence of his father, John Bennett Perry, an actor, and his mother, Suzanne Morrison, a Canadian journalist. Despite his parents’ divorce when he was very young, Perry maintained a close relationship with both. At a young age, Perry developed an interest in tennis, even reaching a competitive level. However, a serious injury forced him to pivot, leading him to discover his passion for acting. Perry moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career, and his early years in the industry were marked by a series of television appearances, including roles in shows like ‘Silver Spoons’ and ‘Growing Pains’. If you’ve ever watched an episode of either of these, you’ll see that Matthew had a knack for comedy at a very young age.
Breakthrough with Friends
Perry’s career reached new heights in 1994, at the age of 24, when he landed the role of Chandler Bing on the NBC sitcom Friends. The show, created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman, followed the lives of six friends living in New York City and became a cultural phenomenon. Perry’s portrayal of the sarcastic and lovable Chandler, known for his witty one-liners and distinct humour, contributed significantly to the show’s success. In fact, he even won an Emmy in 2004 for the role. People Magazine quotes Perry’s words in is 2022 memoir:
“It was as if someone had followed me around for a year, stealing my jokes, copying my mannerisms, photocopying my world-weary yet witty view of life…it wasn’t that I thought I could play ‘Chandler’; I was Chandler.”
The comedy romance between Matthew Perry and the role of Chandler was absolutely perfect. They knew each other inside and out. Friends ran for ten seasons, 236 episodes, and Perry’s performance earned him critical acclaim and a dedicated fan following. The ensemble cast, which included Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, and David Schwimmer, became synonymous with 90s pop culture, and the show remains one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time.
Like all great things, Friends came to an end in 2004. By that point, the cast were so famous and successful, that they were earning around 1 million dollars each per episode. Following the conclusion of this beloved show, Matthew Perry ventured into various acting projects, both in television and film. However, he faced the challenge of breaking away from the iconic character of Chandler Bing. While some of his projects achieved moderate success, including the critically acclaimed drama The West Wing, none reached the same level of cultural impact as Friends. Perry also explored the world of film, taking on roles in movies such as The Whole Nine Yards.
Despite his efforts to diversify his career, Perry faced the inherent challenge that many actors from massively successful TV shows encounter when attempting to transition to different roles. He also involved himself in the theatre world, writing and performing in his own play, The End of Longing, that was performed in London’s West End. But the deep truth, underneath his success, was that Matthew Perry was struggling with addiction.
Struggles with Addiction
Behind the scenes of fame and success, Matthew Perry faced personal battles with addiction. Throughout his time on Friends, Perry struggled with substance abuse issues, particularly with alcohol and prescription medications. The demanding schedule of the show and the pressures of fame took a toll on his well-being. Perry said at the Friends Reunion in 2021:
“I felt like I was going to die if the live audience didn’t laugh…And it’s not healthy for sure, but I could sometimes say a line and they wouldn’t laugh, and I would sweat and just go into convulsions. If I didn’t get the laugh I was supposed to get, I would freak out. I felt that every single night. This pressure left me in a bad place.”
Matthew Perry has admitted in the past to being so ‘out of it’ during the filming of Friends, that he actually doesn’t remember 3 whole seasons of Friends. He also mentions in his recent book – Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing – that you can tell how he’s doing with his addiction based on his extreme weight fluctuation season by season. According to Perry, when he seemed overweight, it was the alcohol, and when he seemed underweight, it was the prescriptive drugs. Matthew admitted to taking around 55 vicodin, xanax, methadone, and a quarter of vodka daily. It was around this point that the cast of Friends spoke to him and suggested he find help. In 1997, Perry entered rehab for the first time. He continued to work on the show during this period, showcasing a remarkable level of professionalism amid his personal struggles. Over his life, Matthew had 15 trips to rehab, 6000 AA meetings and spent around 9 million dollars on addiction prevention.
Near Death Experience
In 2019, Matthew Perry was taken into hospital due to a burst colon, caused by his overuse of opioids during his life. He was in a coma for two weeks and was hospitalised for 5 whole months. He had to use a colostomy bag. The doctor’s have said that he had around a 2% chance of survival. NBC reports Perry’s own words:
“There were five people put on an ECMO machine that night and the other four died and I survived… So the big question is why? Why was I the one? There has to be some kind of reason.”
It seemed that this near death experience gave Perry a new lease of life, as he realised that this was his chance to help other people suffering from similar situations to him. This became his goal for the last few years before his recent passing. Perry said that when he died, he wanted to be remembered for how he had helped people, not just for his role as Chandler. His 2022 memoir was so truthful, so damning and so beautiful, that there’s no doubt that many out there have sought the book out for much-needed help.
Matthew Perry’s Death
Matthew Perry was found dead in his jacuzzi on October 28th 2023. Supposedly he had gone into cardiac arrest and drowned, but at present there is no definitive cause of death. Some wonder if Perry was intoxicated, others suggest that the hot tub could have been faulty and had heating issues, which could have caused him to pass out from heat exhaustion. Authorities are saying it might take weeks or even months before any of these questions are answered. The true sadness is that, despite his struggles with addiction, Perry was on a road of recovery and redemption. He was helping people, as he had wished he would. The cast of Friends released a statement after Perry’s death:
“We are all so utterly devastated by the loss of Matthew… We were more than just castmates. We are a family. There is so much to say, but right now we’re going to take a moment to grieve and process this unfathomable loss. In time we will say more, as and when we are able. For now, our thoughts and our love are with Matty’s family, his friends, and everyone who loved him around the world.”
There is no doubt that Perry will be deeply missed, not only for the million laughs he gave us, but also for his work in helping those with addiction.
RIP: Matthew Perry
Matthew Perry was probably the actor who brought the most joy to my life out of anyone. His ability to turn any line into a comedic one was unmatched. But, as you have seen, Perry’s life spanned beyond Friends and this must be remembered. Whilst he was a comedy genius, he was also someone that struggled with addiction issues. Nonetheless, his deep rooted goodness allowed him to use his struggles to help others. This will always be remembered. Matthew Perry, thank you for everything.
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