Update: On Oct. 28, 2023, it was confirmed that Matthew Perry died at age 54 after an apparent drowning. In November 2022, the actor — known for his role as Chandler Bing in "Friends" — published his memoir, entitled "Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing.” TODAY.com unpacked the details found within its pages after the book's publication. Read the original post as it first ran below.
Matthew Perry is letting it all out.
In his new memoir, “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing,” out Nov. 1, the actor gets candid about some of the moments that have shaped his career and personal life, including his battle with addiction and living under the spotlight.
Perry spent years making the world laugh through his role on “Friends” as Chandler Bing — but, as the memoir shows, he was struggling behind the scenes.
After decades of managing the highs and lows of his career while living with the “big terrible thing” he calls addiction, Perry is publicly reflecting back on his life.
He was in a coma after his colon erupted
The actor opens up his book by recalling his near death experience in 2019 after his colon burst as a result of opioid overuse.
At the hospital, Perry underwent emergency surgery for seven hours. His family was told he had a two percent chance of making it through the night. “I will have to live out the rest of my days knowing that my mother and others heard those words,” Perry writes.
Although Perry survived the night, the actor reveals he landed in a two week-long coma, followed by a five month hospitalization. He had to use a colostomy bag for nine months.
“I had realized that my greatest fear had come true, which is that I did this to myself,” Perry said.
Since then, Perry said he has undergone 14 more surgeries.
He has spent upward $7 million trying to get sober
Perry says his journey with addiction has been both arduous and costly. According to the actor's memoir, he has spent upward $7 million trying to get sober and has been to rehab 15 times (in an interview with the New York Times, Perry said the number was more like $9 million).
“I’ve been in a mental institution, gone to therapy twice a week for thirty years, been to death’s door,” Perry writes.
This does not include the money and time he has spent as a result of his actions while battling alcohol and drug abuse. The actor recalls consuming drugs and a quart of vodka a day on the set of "Serving Sara," a 2002 film.
“Every day I would show up to set, pass out in my chair, wake up to do a scene, stumble to set, then just basically scream into a camera for two minutes,” Perry writes.
Eventually, Perry went away for rehab which later meant paying $650,000 for temporarily shutting down production and re-recording most of his lines in the movie. "Small price to save my life," he writes.
“I needed to make real amends … so I recorded my slurred parts for the entire movie, which meant I looped the entire movie,” Perry writes. “Then I committed to doing the most press possible in the history of press, bending over backward to make things right.”
He almost didn’t play Chandler on 'Friends'
Could picturing a world where Chandler was not played by Matthew Perry, be any more impossible? Well, the actor reveals this was almost the case.
At the time when auditions for “Friends,” originally titled “Friends Like Us,” were happening, Matthew Perry was under contract with another show called “L.A.X 2194.”
“I was devastated,” Perry writes. “When I read the script for “Friends Like Us” it was as if someone had followed me around for a year … I was Chandler.”
Eventually, after “L.A.X. 2194” wasn’t picked up for a season, Perry was allowed to audition.
And as we know, the rest is history.
He and ex-girlfriend Julia Roberts flirted over fax
Perry had a short-lived and very public romance with Julia Roberts in 1995. “She was the biggest movie star in the world, and I was on the number one show on TV," he said.
"Friends" co-creator Marta Kauffman initially asked Perry to reach out in an attempt to convince Roberts to appear on the show's post Super Bowl episode. The two then began corresponding over fax.
“Three or four times a day I would sit by my fax machine and watch the piece of paper slowly revealing her next missive,” Perry writes. “It was like she was placed on this planet to make the world smile, and now, in particular, me.”
Roberts agreed to be on the episode. Despite their on and off air chemistry, the romance came to an end after Perry called it quits.
“I was not enough; I could never be enough; I was broken, bent, unloveable,” Perry writes. “So instead of facing the inevitable agony of losing her, I broke up with the beautiful and brilliant Julia Roberts.”
He watched Roberts win an Oscar for her role in “Erin Brockovich” from his room at rehab.
“I was incredibly happy for her,” he writes. “As for me, I was just grateful to have made it one more day.”
He crushed on co-star Valerie Bertinelli and other A-listers
In 1990, four years before "Friends" premiered, Perry starred on a CBS sitcom called "Sydney" with Valerie Bertinelli. Perry, then 19, had a crush on Bertinelli, then 30, who was married to Eddie Van Halen at the time.
“I was completely captivated,” Perry writes. “I mean, 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.”
And one day, his dreams (almost) came true. Perry says he and Bertinelli had a "long, elaborate make-out session" while her husband, Eddie Van Halen, was passed out just feet away from them.
The next day at work, Perry said Bertinelli was business as usual, not acknowledging the prior night's antics.
“I quickly got the hint and also played the role I was supposed to, but inside I was devastated,” he said, adding that Bertinelli had “done nothing wrong.”
Bertinelli was not Perry's only celebrity make-out at the time. Perry also says he kissed a young and still fairly unknown Gwyneth Paltrow in a broom cupboard while in Williamstown, Mass.
He asked “Friends” co-star Jennifer Aniston out three years before they crossed paths again on the sitcom. Aniston declined but ironically asked to remain friends.
“Fortunately, even though I was still attracted to her and thought she was so great, that first day we 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,” Perry writes.
He was living in rehab when Monica and Chandler got married on 'Friends'
In the book, Perry says Season Nine of the show was the only season of "Friends" he filmed while fully sober (he mentions that he received his only Emmy nomination for that season).
Perry says he thought he was keeping his addiction a secret from his cast-mates until Aniston came to his dressing room one day and told him everyone could smell alcohol on him.
Perry eventually had a sober companion with him on set, then leftto live in a detox center.
“I married Monica and got driven back to the treatment center — at the height of my highest point in “Friends,” the highest point in my career, the iconic moment on the iconic show — in a pickup truck helmed by a sober technician,” Perry writes.
He struggled after 'Friends' came to an end
Perry said that when “Friends” came to an end, he "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," Perry writes.
He recalls waking up the morning after the finale was filmed, thinking about what he was going to do next.
“With no ridiculously high paying, dream-come-true kind of job to go to, and no special someone in my life, things slipped fast,” Perry writes. “In fact, it was like falling off a cliff.”
Things looked promising for him for a while until he agreed to film a sequel for the box office smash “The Whole Nine Yards,” titled “The Whole Ten Yards.”
Unlike the 2000 classic, the sequel bombed at the box office.
“That was the moment Hollywood decided to no longer invite Mr. Perry to be in movies,” Perry writes.
This led to Perry seeking more dramatic roles, and was eventually offered the lead in “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.” While the show initially did well, it was ultimately canceled after one season.
Despite this setback, Perry began working on writing his own projects. “Mr. Sunshine” premiered in 2011, but was canceled after one season. This was followed by “Go On,” which was also quickly canceled.
“I wasn’t devastated by the lack of success — as I said, I knew a hit TV show couldn’t fill my soul,” he writes.
He was meant to star alongside Meryl Streep in 'Don’t Look Up'
Perry’s opportunity to star in more serious dramatic roles, appeared in 2020 when director Adam McKay approached him about a role in Netflix’s “Don’t Look Up.” He was to play a journalist and have three scenes alongside Meryl Streep.
“This would be the biggest movie I’d gotten ever,” Perry writes.
However, around this time, Perry had been at a rehab facility in Switzerland, where doctors planned to surgically insert a medical device in his back to help with his stomach pain from previous surgeries. He was given propofol during the surgery, which Perry said stopped his heart for five minutes.
They proceeded to conduct CPR on Perry, during which eight of his ribs were broken. The pain of this injury caused him to drop out of the film.
“Being in 'Don’t Look Up' didn’t work out because my life was on fire, but I learned an important lesson: I was hirable in something big without putting on a show,” Perry writes.
Cameron Diaz once accidentally punched him
Perry reveals he once got set up on a date with Cameron Diaz following her split from Justin Timberlake.
During the dinner party, Perry writes that "it was clear Diaz was interested in (him) at all," after she "got almost instantly stoned."
The night led to the group playing a game of Pictionary. After saying something witty to Diaz, she went to punch him in the shoulder but accidentally landed the punch on his face.
He is learning how to overcome 'the big terrible thing'
Perry says that his therapist helped him quit drugs by telling him to associate them with the possibility of having to wear a colostomy bag "for the rest of (his) life."
“I have not been interested in taking a drug since,” he writes, later adding, "I've surrendered, but to the winning side, not the losing. I'm not longer mired in an impossible battle with drugs and alcohol. I no longer feel the need to automatically light up a cigarette to go with my morning coffee."
Perry ends the book thanking his friends and family, and naming the "one thing (he) got right."
"I never gave up, I never raised my hands and said, ‘That’s enough, I can’t take it anymore, you win,” Perry writes. “And because of that, I stand tall now, ready for what comes next.”