Everyone's best friend: Matthew Perry's road to fame

Everyone's best friend: Matthew Perry's road to fame

October 29, 2023

Everyone’s best friend: Matthew Perry rocketed to fame as sarcastic but sweet Chandler Bing in hit 90s sitcom – before bravely speaking out about crippling opioid and alcohol addiction to help others

  • Perry, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 54, was born in Massachusetts before being raised in Ottawa, Ontario 
  • After moving to Los Angeles in pursuit of a career, Perry shot to worldwide fame as beloved character Chandler Bing on hit sitcom ‘Friends’
  • Perry had openly talked about his struggles with drug and alcohol addiction, which saw him enter rehab numerous times  

Friends star Matthew Perry’s charisma as 90s sitcom character Chandler Bing and bravery in speaking out about his decades-long opioid and alcohol addiction made him relatable and lovable to all who watched him on screen.

News of Perry’s death on Saturday aged, 54, rocked the world, leaving family, friends and fans mourning the hilarious actor who could deliver a sarcastic one-liner like no one else.  

Perry was born on August 19, 1969 in Williamstown, Massachusetts, but grew up in Ottawa, Ontario. 

His father, John Bennett Perry is an actor in his own right, while his mother Suzanne Morrison worked as a writer and press aide for then Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. 

Morrison and Perry’s father were married from 1968 to 1970 before they split, and she later married Canadian broadcast journalist Keith Morrison.

Perry was a keen tennis player in his teenage years, but has also shared publicly about his addiction struggles also began at a very young age. 

Perry is seen here in his Sophomore year yearbook photograph in 1985, while attending Buckley School in Sherman Oaks, California

Matthew Langford Perry, seen above in around 1985, was a top-rated tennis player in Ottawa, Ontario in his youth


While still in elementary school, Perry also joked that he and a friend once beat up now Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 

Speaking on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2017, Perry told the host: ‘I was reminded of this by my friend Chris Murray, that we actually beat up Justin Trudeau.

‘We both beat him up. I think he was excelling at a sport that we weren’t, so it was pure jealous. So we beat him up.’

Perry continued: ‘I’m not bragging about this, this is terrible. I was a stupid kid.’

It was at the age of 14 that he admits in his memoir, ‘Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing’, his substance abuse began. 

Perry wrote in his book that while a teen he would drink Budweiser and Andrès Baby Duck wine. 

At the age of 15, Perry followed his father and moved to Los Angeles where he attended high school at the Buckley School, a private facility in Sherman Oaks. 

It was at this school that Perry performed in several stage productions, but it was at tennis that he really excelled in.

At one point, the teenager was rated 17th nationally in the junior singles category and third in doubles. 

Perry practiced tennis about 10 hours a day, according to The New York Times. ‘I needed to succeed at whatever I was doing so I could feel better about myself,’ Perry told the Times.

‘I had this incredible drive on the tennis court, and that translated into acting.’ 

The year Perry moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting, he played the role of Chazz Russell on the Fox sitcom ‘Second Chance’. 

Perry wanted to be an actor because of his father. But he also said he joked around a lot at school. 

Perry is seen here in 1987 as he promoted his first network series ‘Second Chance’, which was shown on Fox

Matthew Perry as Roger, Christina Applegate as Patrice Johnson in Dance ’til Dawn, 1988

Matthew Perry and Johnny Depp attend FOX TV ‘Feed The Homeless’ Benefit Party on December 13, 1987 at the Sherman Oaks Galleria in Sherman Oaks, California

‘I’d fall down,’ he told Men’s Health. ‘I’d tell jokes. I liked the feedback. I loved making girls laugh. It felt good. 

‘When I was, like, 15, I realized there could be a career in making people laugh—like, you could get paid to do it. That was insane to me.’ 

‘Second Chance’ was later revamped under the title ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ which was then cancelled after its first season. 

He then followed this up by making his film debut in 1988s ‘A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon’ alongside River Phoenix. 

Speaking about the film late in life, Perry told Buzzfeed: ‘The film was ‘one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had, because I was 16 years old and in Chicago all by myself, no parents around. I knew that I wanted to act.’ 

Around this time he also starred in the TV teen movie ‘Dance ’til Dawn’ alongside Christina Applegate. 

Following his film debut, he then appeared in a three-episode arc on the series ‘Growing Pains’ in 1989 before he was then cast as a regular in the 1990 CBS sitcom ‘Sydney’. 

In the early nineties, he appeared in a smattering of other television shows including ‘Who’s the Boss?’, ‘Beverly Hill, 90210’, and ‘Home Free’. 

Following his film debut, he then appeared in a three-episode arc on the series ‘Growing Pains’ seen here in 1989

In the early nineties, he appeared in a smattering of other television shows including ‘Who’s the Boss?’, he is seen here with actor Alyssa Milano 

Perry, above as Fred Roberts in the film A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon, which was released in 1988 and starred River Phoenix, right

Frustrated by his inability to land a steady gig in TV, Perry and close friend Andrew Hill Newman decided to take a stab at writing their own sitcom in 1994, titled ‘Maxwell’s House’.

That same year, Perry managed to land a role on ‘LAX 2194’, a primetime drama pilot.   

‘Friends’ show creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane had been in the process of pitching a sitcom about ‘six people in their 20s, making their way in Manhattan’. 

The two had been familiar with his work, and disappointed to learn Perry had been booked on ‘LAX 2194’. 

After the pilot fell through, Perry auditioned for the role of Chandler Bing and rounded out one of the most iconic ensembles in television history. 

David Crane, the show’s other creator, said: ‘We brought everybody in. We were so sure that Chandler would be the easiest part to cast. 

‘It’s got the most joke jokes. It’s sarcastic and kind of quippy, but no one could do it. No one.’ 

Almost immediately, ‘Friends’ became a global pop culture phenomenon and Perry one of its biggest stars. 

His co-stars described the fame as overwhelming with Lisa Kudrow, who played Phoebe, calling it an ‘assault’ in the oral history.

But Perry initially loved being famous, saying: ‘Not knowing anything about fame or what it would do, I just wanted it. Really badly. 

‘So when I got it, I was very excited. And would literally go to the Beverly Center to get recognized,’ he told BuzzFeed, referring to a big mall in LA.

The cast of Friends are seen in this promotional picture taken for the first season of the show

Almost immediately, ‘Friends’ became a global pop culture phenomenon and Perry one of its biggest stars

Actor Matthew Perry and actress Julia Roberts hug each other on the set of ‘Friends’

He recalled to the New York Times in 2002: ‘When it happens, it’s kind of like Disneyland for a while. 

‘For me it lasted about eight months, this feeling of ‘I’ve made it, I’m thrilled, there’s no problem in the world.

‘And then you realize that it doesn’t accomplish anything, it’s certainly not filling any holes in your life.

 ‘I was a guy who wanted to become famous. There was steam coming out of my  ears, I wanted to be famous so badly. 

‘You want the attention, you want the bucks, and you want the best seat in the restaurant. I didn’t think what the repercussions would be.’

His role as the emotionally immature, sweater-vest wearing character brought with it an active dating life, which included a brief relationship with Julia Roberts who guested on the show in 1995. 

The commitment-phobic character Perry portrayed seemed to emulate his real life, with a string of short lived relationships over the years, and having never married.  

As the show consistently delivered top ratings, Perry was soon courted to star in feature films and teamed up with Salma Hayek in ‘Fools Rush In’ in 1996. 

While still working on ‘Friends’, Perry then later starred in ‘Almost Heroes’ in 1998, shortly after the demise of his  co-star Chris Farley from a drug overdose. 

Not long after completing the film, Perry himself checked himself into a rehab facility for an addiction to prescription painkillers, saying a jet ski accident caused him to be addicted to Vicodin. 

Matthew Perry during an interview with host Jay Leno on February 12, 1997

Matthew Perry, from left, Courteney Cox Arquettte, David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston and Matt LeBlanc of the television show ‘Friends’ arrive for NBC’s 75th Anniversary event on May 5, 2002 in New York

Matthew Perry during ‘Fools Rush In’ Presentation of Props to Planet Hollywood in New York City

He previously recalled his first experience with the painkiller to People, saying: ‘Here, take this.’ 

‘I did, and I felt better than I ever felt in my entire life. I had a big problem with pills and alcohol, and I couldn’t stop.’

Perry would spend 28 days at the Hazelden Center in Minnesota, but would only stay sober for a short time. 

Rumors had been swirling concerning his hard-living lifestyle, with cast members expressing concern over his health and his dramatic weight loss. 

In an interview with Diane Sawyer, Perry said that the toll of his addiction to painkillers squashed his appetite.  

He admitted he was taking 55 Vicodin a day and was down to 128 pounds but yet he ‘didn’t know how to stop.’ 

He would also tell an in 2016 that he doesn’t remember filming three seasons of Friends. 

After returning to work, Perry put on some much needed weight as ‘Friends’ continued to bring in top ratings.

In 2000 he would go on to become the first member of the ‘Friends’ cast to star in a box office hit, alongside Bruce Willis in the popular and well-reviewed ‘The Whole Nine Yards’. 

It was around this time that he was also hospitalized for two weeks for alcohol and drug related pancreatitis. 

At the time, Perry told ABC that his prolonged stay in hospital had caused him to lose 20 pounds. 

David Schwimmer and Canadian-American actor Matthew Perry attend the 54th Golden Globe Awards, held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, 19th January 1997

Rumors had been swirling concerning his hard-living lifestyle, with cast members expressing concern over his health and his dramatic weight loss

After returning to work, Perry put on some much needed weight as ‘Friends’ continued to bring in top ratings

Us Weekly quoted Perry at the time as saying: ‘In my case, it was hard living and drinking hard and eating poorly. You play, you pay.’

‘But I went to work in extreme cases of hangover. It’s so horrible to feel that way and have to work and be funny on top of that.’

Despite the hospitalization, Perry would re-enter rehab in 2001 while working on the movie ‘Serving Sara’ after realizing that he couldn’t work like that any longer. 

‘I can’t describe it,’ he said of the moment he realized he needed to make a change. ‘Because bigger things were taking place that I can’t put into words.

‘I was in fear of losing my life. There’s a moment of clarity where you have to prioritize your life. I listened to it. It was scary. I didn’t want to die.’

He stepped out of the spotlight for more than two months, and he said he finally ‘learned that a happy life is possible without alcohol or drugs,’ before he returned to finish filming Serving Sara.

‘I didn’t get sober because I felt like it. I got sober because I was worried I was going to die the next day,’ he told the Times.

David Schwimmer, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Courteney Cox, Jennifer Aniston and Matt LeBlanc pose after ‘Friends’ won outstanding comedy series at the 54th Primetime Emmy Awards Sept. 22, 2002

Courteney Cox as Monica Geller-Bing as ‘Catwoman’, Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing as ‘Big Pink Bunny’

He even revealed he would go to real estate open houses – not because he was interested in buying property but to see if he could steal drugs from medicine cabinets. 

For his role as Chandler Bing, Perry would later be nominated for American Comedy Awards and Emmys as an Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in 2001.

After Friends came to an end in 2004, Perry’s career continued to flourish. 

He went on to star in The Ron Clark Story, which earned him a Golden Globe and Emmy nomination, and the 2007 flick, 17 Again, which also starred Zac Efron. 

In 2011, Perry announced that he was going back to rehab to ‘focus on his sobriety,’ explaining in a statement at the time, ‘I’m making plans to go away for a month to focus on my sobriety and to continue my life in recovery. 

‘Please enjoy making fun of me on the World Wide Web.’ But at the time, he told People that ‘there was no relapse.’ 

Around that time, he also became a spokesperson for the National Association of Drug Court Professionals and went to Capitol Hill to lobby members of congress in an attempt to get more funding for drug courts. 

In 2013, he opened his own sober living home in Malibu, California, which he sold two years later. 

Perry is seen here throwing out the first pitch at a Dodgers vs Padres game  

US actors Bruce Willis (L) and Matthew Perry (R) arrive at the premiere of their new film “The Whole Nine Yards” in Los Angeles, 17 February, 2000

Matthew Perry during filming of the Graham Norton Show at The London Studios

Then, in 2016, he launched a play about his experiences, called The End of Longing, which premiered on the West End in London and eventually moved to off-Broadway. 

While it seemed to the public that Perry’s battles with addiction were long gone, he secretly almost lost his life in 2018 when his colon burst due to opioid overuse. 

Doctors gave him only a two percent chance of survival and he was in a coma for two weeks followed by months more in the hospital.

Perry required 14 surgeries to help repair all of the abdominal damage, and he admitted to having gone to rehab 15 times over the years in hopes of kicking his drug addiction.

Speaking to the New York Times earlier this year, he told the outlet that he believes his decision to never try heroin as the reason he was still alive.

Perry said: ‘I would fake back injuries. I would fake migraine headaches. I had eight doctors going at the same time.

‘I would wake up and have to get 55 Vicodin that day, and figure out how to do it. When you’re a drug addict, it’s all math. 

‘I go to this place, and I need to take three. And then I go to this place, and I’m going to take five because I’m going to be there longer. 

Matthew Perry poses for a portrait on Feb. 17, 2015, in New York. Perry

Just the other week Perry delighted fans by sharing a social media post of him and his father, seen here

‘It’s exhausting but you have to do it or you get very, very sick. I wasn’t doing it to feel high or to feel good. 

‘I certainly wasn’t a partier; I just wanted to sit on my couch, take five Vicodin and watch a movie. That was heaven for me. It no longer is.’

He also confessed that he had spent in the region of $9 million trying to get sober. 

Over the course of his career, Perry has been linked to a slew of famous faces. Back in the ’90s, he made headlines after news hit the web that he was dating actress Julia Roberts, who he had met on set of Friends when she made a guest appearance.

They were together for a year before splitting in 1996. He then briefly dated Baywatch star Yasmine Bleeth.

After starring in Three to Tango together, Perry dated his costar Neve Campbell in 1998. 

After that, he was in a year-long relationship with Bold and the Beautiful actress Maeve Quinlan from 2002 to 2003.

He was also briefly linked to Gilmore Girls star Lauren Graham in 2003. 

After starring in Three to Tango together, Perry dated his costar Neve Campbell (left) in 1998. After that, he was in a year-long relationship with Bold and the Beautiful actress Maeve Quinlan (right) from 2002 to 2003

He was also briefly linked to Gilmore Girls star Lauren Graham (seen) in 2003

His most controversial romance was with fashion student Rachel Dunn (left), since she was 14-years younger than him, whom he dated for two years. He was then in a relationship with actress Lizzy Caplan (right) from 2006 until 2012

His most controversial romance was with fashion student Rachel Dunn, since she was 14-years younger than him. 

They were together for two years, before going their separate ways in 2005. 

His longest relationship was with actress Lizzy Caplan, whom he dated for six years from 2006 until 2012. 

Perry was also linked to a woman named Kayti Edwards in the early 2000s, who later claimed the actor had her score drugs for him while she was pregnant. 

Perry never married and ended his engagement to Molly Hurwitz, a talent manager, in 2021. 

He is survived by his Mother and Father, having had no children. 

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