Matthew Perry is getting candid about his life, career and struggles with addiction in an intense new memoir, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing.
The 53-year-old Friends star opens up like never before in the book, detailing his tumultuous family life, his long-speculated ups and downs with drug and alcohol abuse, his relationships with stars like Julia Roberts and Valerie Bertinelli, and, strangely, a few nasty mentions of Keanu Reeves.
The overarching message, however, is a man grateful to be alive after all he’s been through, and eager to pull the veil back on the person behind one of the world’s most beloved sitcom characters. In fact, as Perry told The New York Times ahead of the book’s release, some of his happiest moments on Friends were surrounded by some of his darkest times in real life.
He told The New York Times that after his character, Chandler Bing, married Monica Gellar, played by Courteney Cox, in the NBC show’s season 7 finale, he was “driven back to the treatment center …in a pickup truck helmed by a sober technician.”
“[I was] at the height of my highest point in Friends, the highest point in my career, the iconic moment on the iconic show,” he notes. “When you’re a drug addict, it’s all math. I wasn’t doing it to feel high or to feel good. I certainly wasn’t a partyer; I just wanted to sit on my couch, take five Vicodin and watch a movie. That was heaven for me. It no longer is.”
Read on for a few more of the biggest revelations from Perry’s new book, out now.
He’s had multiple brushes with death.
Perry’s book makes mention of several hospitalizations that the actor has endured throughout his years of drug and alcohol abuse. However, the book kicks off with his most dire medical emergency to date, when he suffered a gastrointestinal perforation at age 49 after his colon burst from opioid overuse. Perry fought for his life, spending two weeks in a coma and five months in the hospital, and had to use a colostomy bag for nine months.
“The doctors told my family that I had a two percent chance to live,” he told People. “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.”
Perry reveals in the book that he has had 14 surgeries on his stomach, and that the scars serve as “reminders to stay sober.” But the biggest motivating factor for steering clear of drugs came from his therapist, who told him, “The next time you think about taking Oxycontin, just think about having a colostomy bag for the rest of your life.”
At one point in his drug habit, he was taking 55 Vicodin a day.
Perry doesn’t shy away from describing the magnitude of his drug and alcohol problems. In addition to his Vicodin habit, which got up to 55 pills a day during Friends‘ third season, he mentions using and abusing Xanax, OxyContin, Dilaudid, methadone, buprenorphine/suboxone, cocaine, and lots of vodka.
Speaking with The New York Times in a recent interview, Perry revealed how much money he’s spent battling his addictions, admitting, “I’ve probably spent $9 million or something trying to get sober.”
He includes two strangely nasty mentions of Keanu Reeves.
Twice, while mourning the loss of a star who died too soon, Perry invokes Keanu Reeves’ name, seemingly out of nowhere. The first mention comes as he discusses working on his first film, A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon, alongside the legendary River Phoenix, who would be dead just five years later of a drug overdose.
“River was a beautiful man, inside and out — too beautiful for this world, it turned out. It always seems to be the really talented guys who go down,” Perry writes in an excerpt published by Variety. “Why is it that the original thinkers like River Phoenix and Heath Ledger die, but Keanu Reeves still walks among us?”
In another selection from the book, Perry circles back to the same sentiment when discussing the 1997 death of Chris Farley.
“His disease has progressed faster than mine had. (Plus, I had a healthy fear of the word ‘heroin,’ a fear we did not share),” the Friends star writes. “I punched a hole through Jennifer Aniston’s dressing room wall when I found out. Keanu Reeves walks among us.”
Responding to fan outrage over the incendiary reflection, Perry walked back his comments in a statement to People.
“I’m actually a big fan of Keanu,” Perry said in a mea culpa. “I just chose a random name, my mistake. I apologize. I should have used my own name instead.”
He once made out with Valerie Bertinelli while her husband, Eddie Van Halen, was passed out nearby.
In an except from the book published by Page Six, Perry details falling head over heels for Valerie Bertinelli while the pair were working together on a sitcom called Sydney. The problem was that Bertinelli was married at the time, to rocker Eddie Van Halen.
“I fell madly in love with Valerie Bertinelli, who was clearly in a troubled marriage,” he writes. “I was obsessed with her and harbored elaborate fantasies about her leaving Eddie Van Halen and living out the rest of her days with me.”
Things allegedly heated up one night when Perry was invited over to the couple’s house. After Van Halen passed out, Perry claims, he and Bertinelli had “a long, elaborate make-out session. It was happening — maybe she felt the same way I did… I told her I had thought about doing that for a long time, and she had said it right back to me.”
The next day at work, however, Bertinelli “made no mention of what had happened and was behaving — as she should have been — like this was just a normal day… I quickly got the hint and also played the role I was supposed to, but inside I was devastated.”
Perry adds that he had “many a tearful night” over the missed opportunity, but Sydney was canceled not long after and “I didn’t have to see Valerie anymore.”
Bertinelli seemed to respond to the story on her TikTok account, posting a video of herself cringing and waving set to Taylor Swift’s song, “Anti-Hero.”
She writes in the clip, “Anyone misbehave in their 20s and early 30s? Are you mortified?” as Swift sings the lyrics, “It’s me, hi, I’m the problem. It’s me.”
He had an early crush on Jennifer Aniston.
Perry shares that he and Aniston had met before working together on Friends, writing in an excerpt published by The Times of London that he was “immediately taken by her,” but claiming that she “declined” after he asked her out.
He notes that though he was “still attracted to her,” they were able to “sail right past the past and focus on the fact that we had both gotten the best job Hollywood had to offer.”
In a preview of the actor’s upcoming interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC News, Perry also reveals that Aniston was the one who reached out the most when his drinking spiraled out of control. He recalls Aniston confronting him in his Friends dressing room and telling him, “We know you’re drinking.”
“Yeah,” Perry confirms. “Imagine how scary a moment that was. She was the one that reached out the most. I’m really grateful to her for that.”
He dumped Julia Roberts.
In an excerpt published by The Times of London, Perry details his romance with Roberts, which began when the Pretty Woman star was considering a guest appearance on Friends in the mid-’90s. Perry claims he was informed that Roberts had told the showrunners that she would be in the show if she could be a part of his character’s storyline. He writes that he then set out to “woo” the A-lister.
“I sent her three dozen red roses and the card read: ‘The only thing more exciting than the prospect of you doing the show is that I finally have an excuse to send you flowers,'” he recalls in the book.
The pair began a months-long courtship via fax, with Perry writing, “It was like she was placed on this planet to make the world smile, and now, in particular, me. I was grinning like some 15-year-old on his first date.”
He notes that by the time they filmed her episode, they were already a couple. Roberts played Chandler’s childhood classmate, Susie Moss, in the episode “The One After the Super Bowl,” which aired in January 1996.
In his memoir, Perry recalls a February 1996 appearance from Roberts on The Late Show With David Letterman, where she jokingly confirmed her romance with Perry.
“Two months later, I was single,” Perry writes. “Dating Julia Roberts had been too much for me. I had been constantly certain that she was going to break up with me. Why would she not? I was not enough; I could never be enough; I was broken, bent, unlovable.”
He continues that the pressures of dating such a famous star made him decide to break up with her, but adds that, to this day, his “Groundhogs Day” moment that he wishes he could live over and over again was the New Years Eve he spent in Taos, New Mexico with Roberts.
“Instead of facing the inevitable agony of losing her, I broke up with the beautiful and brilliant Julia Roberts,” he writes. “She might have considered herself slumming it with a TV guy, and TV guy was now breaking up with her. I can’t begin to describe the look of confusion on her face.”
Later in the book, Perry recalls being in detox the night Roberts won her Oscar for Erin Brockovich.
“I made a joke. ‘I’ll take you back,’ I said. ‘I’ll take you back.’ The whole room laughed, though this was not a funny line in a sitcom. This was real life now,” he recalls. “Those people on the TV were no longer my people. No, the people I was lying in front of, shaking, covered in blanket, were my people now. And I was lucky to have them. They were saving my life… I didn’t need an Oscar, I just needed one more day.”
He says he was never high when working on Friends, but admits that his drug use and drinking affected his performance on the show.
Perry claims he was never high while working on Friends, not wanting to ruin the opportunity for everyone else, but he does admit that his drug and alcohol use affected him in terms of being hungover on set.
“One time, In a scene in the coffeehouse when I’m dressed in a suit, I fell asleep right there on the couch, and disaster was averted only when Matt LeBlanc nudged me awake right before my line; no one noticed, but I knew how close I’d come.”
He once made out with Gwyneth Paltrow in a broom closet.
The summer before Friends started airing and became an instant phenomenon, Perry had a brush with another up-and-coming starlet, which would have been much bigger news a few years later.
“I was back in Williamstown, Massachusetts, when I met Gwyneth. She was doing a play there, and I was visiting my grandfather,” he remembers. At some big party we slipped off into a broom closet and made out. We were both still unknown enough that it didn’t make it to the tabloids.”
He wishes he and Bruce Willis had become better friends.
Perry dedicates an entire chapter to Bruce Willis, even though the pair only spent a brief time working together on The Whole Nine Years. Perry recalls some wild nights out with Willis, then one of the biggest stars in the world, but says there was a fundamental difference between the way the two of them handled their substances.
“Bruce was a partier; I was an addict. Bruce has an on-off button,” he notes. “He can party like crazy, then get a script like The Sixth Sense and stop the partying and nail the movie sober. He doesn’t have the gene — he’s not an addict.”
He says he felt nothing when Friends ended.
Perry recalls watching his castmates sob around him as Friends filmed their final episode in 2004, but says the detox drug he was on at the time left him feeling numb.
“I felt nothing; I couldn’t tell if that was because of the opioid buprenorphine I was taking, or if I was just generally dead inside,” he shares. “So, instead of sobbing, I took a slow walk around the stage with my then-girlfriend— Friends had been a safe place, a touchstone of calm for me; it had given me a reason to get out of bed every morning, and it had also given me a reason to take it just a little bit easier the night before. It was the time of our lives. It was like we got some new piece of amazing news every day. Even I knew only a madman (which in many moments I had been nonetheless) would screw up a job like that.”
He claims to barely remember proposing to Molly Hurwitz.
Perry was in rehab in Switzerland when he proposed to Molly Hurwitz in 2019 and says he was “high on 1,800 milligrams of hydrocodone” at the time.
“I had even asked for her family’s blessing. Then I’d proposed, high as a kite. And on one knee. And she knew it, too. And she said yes,” he recalls. “I bought her a ring because I was desperate that she would leave me. I didn’t want to be this injured and alone during COVID.”
“Back in LA one more time, trying to sober up, I think, Wait… how did I get engaged? There are dogs living in my house. How did this happen?” he continues. “I had asked her parents, begged for her hand while high, and put up with the dogs. That’s how scared I was of being abandoned.”
He was supposed to be in Don’t Look Up,but had to pull out after breaking eight ribs.
In an excerpt of the book from Rolling Stone, Perry shares that he was initially cast as a Republican journalist in Adam McKay’s star-studded apocalypse satire, but had to pull out of the film after another medical emergency.
During a stay at a rehab center in Switzerland, Perry writes, he was administered the anesthesia drug propofol before a surgery to help with his stomach pain, but the drug had serious interactions with hydrocodone that was already in his system.
“I was given the shot at 11:00 A.M. I woke up eleven hours later in a different hospital. Apparently, the propofol had stopped my heart. For five minutes. It wasn’t a heart attack — I didn’t flatline — but nothing had been beating,” Perry writes.
“I was told that some beefy Swiss guy really didn’t want the guy from Friends dying on his table and did CPR on me for the full five minutes, beating and pounding my chest,” he continues. “If I hadn’t been on Friends, would he have stopped at three minutes? Did Friends save my life again?”
However, while the man saved Perry’s life, “he also broke eight of my ribs,” leaving him in too much pain to return to the film. Perry calls the decision to leave “the biggest movie I’d gotten ever” a “heartbreaking one.”
He wishes for a family life.
One of the things Perry truly hopes to do with the rest of his life is fall in love and build a family. He broke things off with Hurwitz last year and has ended nearly every relationship he’s been in up to this point.
“That was me afraid,” he tells People. “That is what I manifest, something that’s wrong with them. And then I break up with them. But there can’t be something wrong with everyone. I’m the common denominator. I left first because I thought they were going to annihilate me.”
While Perry admits that he “had a tremendous amount of fear” about love, he says that, “through a lot of work, I’ve got over that fear.”
“I’m going to learn as I go. The thing that’s changed about me is I have no interest in hanging out with somebody that I don’t know or somebody that I’m not that into,” he says. “The next person I really take seriously is somebody that I’m going to be in love with and not be scared by the things that used to scare me.”
As for who that person will be, Perry says he’s looking for “somebody who’s self-supporting.”
“In every way, but monetarily especially because I got burned a few times by women who wanted my money, not really caring about me,” he says. “A sense of humor, beautiful inside and out, caring. This is really important, somebody who can have a back and forth with me.”
He’d also like to have kids, telling the outlet of being a dad, “I think I’d be great. I really do. I grew up with a lot of little kids around me, and that’s probably why, but I can’t wait.”
Health, a partner and kids are all things Perry is confident he’ll be able to have now that he’s sober.
“I’m not run by the fear I used to be run by so everything’s kind of different,” he says. “I’m feeling more confident and I’m not afraid of love anymore, so the next girl I go out with better watch out.”
Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing is out now.
Matthew Perry Apologizes for His Harsh Words About Keanu Reeves
Matthew Perry Talks Asking for Support While Battling Addiction
Why Matthew Perry Broke Up With Julia Roberts in the ’90s
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