The actor found dead at 54. Career, substance abuse and rebirth
Hollywood in shock over the death at age 54 of Matthew Perrythe actor who became a television superstar playing Chandler Bing, a sweet and haughty character, in the beloved sitcom “Friends” (1994-2004).
The lifeless body was found around 4pm on Saturday 28 October in the hot tub at his home in Los Angeles, as law enforcement sources reported to the “Los Angeles Times”. The police sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, did not mention the cause of death: however, no drugs were found at the scene of the death nor is any homicide suspected and at the moment the preferred lead seems to be that of an illness, although other hypotheses cannot be ruled out. Robbery and homicide detectives from the police department are investigating the cause of death, which will be determined later by the Los Angeles County medical examiner’s office based on an autopsy.
“We are devastated by the passing of our dear friend Matthew Perry,” Warner Bros Television Group, which produced ‘Friends’, said in a statement. “Matthew was an incredibly gifted actor and an indelible part of the Warner family. The impact of his Comedic genius has been felt around the world and his legacy will live on in the hearts of many. This is a heartbreaking day and we send our love to his family, loved ones and all of his devoted fans.”
The fight against substance abuse, the memoir
Although Perry achieved enormous success thanks to the role of Chandler Bing in “Friends”, one of the most successful TV series of all time, behind the mask of the jokey character the actor hid a long struggle with substance abuse. In his memoir “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing” (2022), Matthew Perry described his battle with drugs and alcohol, stating during the promotional tour that he had been ‘sober’ for 18 months and that he had “probably spent $9 million or something trying to detox.” In the book, Perry talked about several times he came close to death, including two weeks in a coma, followed by months of recovery in 2018 after bleeding in his colon due to opioid use. In 2022, Perry revealed in an interview with “People” that doctors had told his family that he had a “2% chance of living.”
The success with ‘Friends’, the accident, Vicodin and alcohol
Debuting in 1994, “Friends” followed the lives and loves of six young New Yorkers trying to find themselves while coming together to find support with each other. Through their trials and tribulations, one thing remained constant (as the show’s theme song stated): “These friends would always be there for each other.” Striking the hearts of twenty-year-olds all over the world, “Friends” was a ratings success: in the USA alone the episodes broadcast by NBC attracted an average of 25 million viewers, ranking among the top 10 prime time programs in every year of its 10 seasons. Although the last episode of the Warner Bros sitcom dates back to 2004, it remains popular even in the streaming era.
Like his co-stars – Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer – Matthew Perry was relatively unknown when he landed the role on “Friends” and at 24 was the youngest member of the cast. With a knack for putting a sarcastic twist on any dialogue, Chandler Bing had the sitcom’s best lines. But his somewhat dismissive tone masked an insecurity that also made him one of the most awkward of the group of friends. Chandler’s discomfort and vulnerability led to some of the show’s funniest situations, but also some of its most touching moments. In 2002, Perry and LeBlanc were both nominated for an Emmy Award for Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.
“Friends” made Perry very rich. At the start of the sitcom, the six stars were paid $22,500 each per episode, but as ratings increased they were paid as much as $1 million per episode, “The Hollywod Reporter” reported. As Perry’s stardom increased, he turned to alcohol to ease the tension. In 1997 the actor had an accident with his jet ski and began taking painkillers, abusing Vicodin for years, a medicine based on hydrocodone in combination with paracetamol, he himself said. In 2001 he entered rehab and later admitted that he remembered little of the last three seasons of “Friends” due to alcohol.
In 2013, Perry revealed to “People” that he didn’t get sober until he was 43. The previous year he had turned his Malibu beach house into a “sober living” facility for ex-alcoholics called “The Perry House” and has since tried to devote his time and resources to helping other addicts. “You can’t have a drug problem for 30 years and then expect to fix it in 28 days,” Perry said in an interview in 2015. “I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my life and a lot of wonderful accolades, but the thing better than me is that if an alcoholic comes to me and says, ‘Can you help me stop drinking?’, I say, ‘Yes, I know how to do it.'”
Biography and career
Matthew Langford Perry was born on August 19, 1969 in Williamstown, Massachusetts. His mother, Suzanne Marie, was a Canadian journalist who served as press secretary to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. His father, John Bennett Perry, was an American actor and former model known for the crime series “240-Robert” (1971-81). Bennett played the father of Aniston’s boyfriend in a 1998 episode of “Friends.” Perry’s parents divorced shortly after he was born, and his mother left Massachusetts to settle in Ottawa. Growing up in Canada, Matthew Perry attended West Carleton Secondary School and Ashbury College and as a teenager showed a talent for tennis and, for a time, trained to become a professional. This dream faded when Perry was 15 and moved to Los Angeles to live with his father. His debut on television dates back to 1979, when his father got him a small role in an episode of “240-Robert”. At 15 he began studying acting at the Buckley School in Sherman Oaks, California, then honed his skills as a comedian.
After guest appearances on the sitcoms “The Babysitter” (1985) and “Ricky” (1986), Matthew Perry became a regular in the comedy “Second Chance” (1987-88), about a dead man ( Kiel Martin) who returns to Earth to guide his young teenage self (Perry). The actor then made his name in the TV series “The Parents in Blue Jeans” (1989) as Carol Seaver’s (Tracey Gold) boyfriend who was killed in a drunk driving accident. In 1990 he played Valerie Bertinelli’s younger brother in the sitcom “Sydney” and participated in episodes of “Beverly Hills, 90210”.
His 1992 appearance on the sitcom “Dream On” brought him to the attention of David Crane and Marta Kauffman, the creators of “Friends.” At the time of “Friends” Perry attempted to turn his fame into a film career (he had made his debut in 1988 in the film “Jimmy’s Girls”). His greatest success was perhaps “The FBI: Witness Protection” (2000) in which he played a mild-mannered dentist who becomes involved with a notorious hired killer (Bruce Willis). The film grossed more than $100 million worldwide and spawned a sequel in 2004.
His other films for the big screen include “Apple and Tequila” (1997), “Almost Heroes” (1998), “Threesome” (1999), “It’s All Sara’s Fault” ” (2002), “Love Therapy” (2007). Due to limited success at the movies, Perry returned to TV starring in “Mr. Sunshine” (2011), “Childrens Hospital” (2011), “The Good Wife” (2012-2013), “Go On” (2012- 2013), “Web Therapy” (2015), “The Odd Couple” (2015), “The Good Fight” (2017). He also appeared in the mini series “The Kennedys: The Story Continues” (2018). His last appearance on TV was in 2021 in the special “Friends: The Reunion”.
Matthew Perry spoke openly about wanting to settle down and have a family several times, “The Hollywood Reporter” recalled, but he never married and had no children.
(Of Paolo Martini)