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Matthew Perry, the highs and lows of the man behind Chandler on ‘Friends’

The actor, known for his role in the hit TV show, has been found dead in his home in Los Angeles

Matthew Perry
Matthew Perry at a party held in August 2015 in West Hollywood, California.Axelle/Bauer-Griffin (FilmMagic)
María Porcel

Actor Matthew Perry — known throughout the world thanks to his role as Chandler Bing, Monica Geller’s sarcastic boyfriend in the television comedy Friends — has died of an apparent drowning. The news was confirmed exclusively by the celebrity website TMZ, which reported that police in Los Angeles found him unresponsive in a jacuzzi in his house after 4:10 p.m. local time. He was 54 years old. The police department confirmed that it is investigating the death. According to local media such as TMZ and Page Six, Perry had played pickleball in the morning, returned to his home in the Pacific Palisades area, near the beaches of Malibu and sent his assistant to run an errand. The assistant found him when she returned a couple of hours later and alerted emergency services.

Perry shot to global fame at the age of 24 thanks to his role as funny, ironic, love-struck and sometimes irascible Chandler Bing on Friends, the hit TV show that aired between 1994 and 2004, and also brought fame to his co-stars: Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer and Matt LeBlanc. Perry had been in the acting world for almost a decade before being cast in the show which ran for 234 episodes but it was Friends that catapulted him to the world stage. According to the actor, he reached a level of fame that remained long after the TV show had ended. Following the end of Friends, Perry starred in some minor projects as well as the odd episode of the TV shows The Good Wife and Cougar Town.

Perry’s parents were actor John Bennett Perry and Suzanne Marie Langford, who was press secretary of the late former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau (the father of the current Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau). After his parents separated when he was just a few months old, he lived between Montreal, Canada and Los Angeles, where he finally settled. Perry began acting at the age of 10. When he started filming Friends, he was beginning to struggle with alcohol addiction, and by the time the show ended, he said: “I was really entrenched in a lot of trouble.”

Due to his addiction, the actor went through evident physical changes, which were noticed by Friends viewers. During this period, Perry said that his costars always tried to help him. His life was full of ups and downs, as he shared in his memoir Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Things. “There were years that I was sober during that time. Season 9 was the year that I was sober the whole way through,” he recalled. That was the first time Perry was nominated for an Emmy for his role on Friends.

From left to right, the stars of 'Friends': Jennifer Aniston, David Schummer, Courteney Cox, Matt Leblanc, Lisa Kudrow and Matthew Perry.
From left to right, the stars of 'Friends': Jennifer Aniston, David Schummer, Courteney Cox, Matt Leblanc, Lisa Kudrow and Matthew Perry.

In the later seasons, he dropped to 128 pounds, and was taking 55 pills of Vicodin, a painkiller derived from a synthetic opioid, every day. “I couldn’t stop because the disease and the addiction is progressive. So it gets worse and worse as you grow older,” he said. His substance abuse got so bad that there are three whole series of Friends that he doesn’t remember, he told Chris Evans on the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show.

In his memoir, the actor said he went through several rehabilitation programs, claiming to have “spent $9 million or something on trying to get sober.” At times, his battle with addiction made him feel singled out and stigmatized. He said that this was why he doesn’t support Alcohol Anonymous: “It suggests that there is stigma and that we have to hide,” he said in an interview with The New York Times.

In his memoir, Perry also said he nearly died in 2018 when his colon burst from opioid overuse. He was in a coma for two weeks, spent five months in hospital and had to use a colostomy bag for nine months. “The doctors told my family that I had a 2% chance to live,” he wrote. “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.”

In the mid-1990s, Perry dated actress Julia Roberts. They met when she had a cameo in Friends’ Thanksgiving special episode in Season Two. The episode — in which Roberts played Chandler’s old schoolmate and new romantic interest — was one of the most-watched in the show’s history, attracting 53 million viewers. There was chemistry between the two off-screen too, and they dated between 1995 and 1996.

Perry also dated Baywatch star Yasmine Bleeth, and had short romances with Neve Campbell (from the Scream saga), Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls) and Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex). In a 1997 interview with Entertainment Weekly, he said: “If you have dinner with someone and the next day the country thinks you’re in a relationship, it gets a little weird. I was confused about dating before Friends. This all just makes it more confusing.” But he added: “Worst-case scenario. I still have the best job anyone could ever ask for.”

In 2019, Perry began a relationship with 27-year-old literary agent Molly Hurwitz, to whom he became engaged in 2020. They called off the engagement in 2021.

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