Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing | Matthew Perry

Summary of: Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing
By: Matthew Perry

Introduction

Dive into the emotionally charged story of Matthew Perry as he navigates the trials of fame, addiction, and the search for internal happiness in ‘Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing’. In this summary, explore the rocky beginnings of Perry’s life, his rise to prominence as Chandler Bing in the hit sitcom Friends, and the personal demons that haunted him throughout his career. Discover how he confronted and battled his alcoholism and addiction and found a path to recovery, gratitude, and a new appreciation for life itself, inspiring hope for those grappling with their own struggles.

The Seeds of Matthew Perry’s Struggles

Born into a world of attention-seeking, young Matthew Perry found solace only in doing the same. The turbulence of his upbringing laid the foundation for this charismatic entertainer, where his penchant for substance use started early. A split household, an influential position held by his mother, and his desperate quest for a sense of belonging eventually led him to seek refuge in alcohol and drugs, setting the stage for a lifelong battle with anhedonia, addiction, and the emptiness within.

On a tempestuous night in 1969, Matthew Langford Perry arrived, screaming into existence. His folk singer father and beauty queen mother quickly grew weary of their consistently inconsolable son. At just two months old, Matthew found relief from his colic cries through the major barbiturate, phenobarbitol. Thus began his journey of seeking solace through substances, without learning to cope internally.

At nine months, his parents separated with his father venturing to California to chase his acting dreams, leaving a young Matthew behind with his 21-year-old mother. Growing up, Matthew learned to make others laugh while simultaneously trying to care for them, acting as his mother did in her role as the press secretary to Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. When his half-sibling was born, Matthew struggled to find his place within the family and started exhibiting behavioral issues, resorting to acts like smoking and fighting.

One pivotal event that would shape the trajectory of Matthew’s life occurred at 14: his first drink. Joined by the Murray brothers, the trio hastily consumed a six-pack of beer and a bottle of wine in Matthew’s backyard. Unlike his companions, Matthew found blissful solace instead of sickness. The world finally made sense to him; his problems vanished, and a newfound happiness enveloped him. Though not immediately falling into the stranglehold of addiction, the seeds were sown for his future issues with alcoholism and substance abuse.

Beneath the surface, Matthew Perry struggled with anhedonia – an inability to experience pleasure unless fueled by excitement or inebriation. This affliction only exacerbated his coping mechanism of seeking comfort from external sources.

As a 15-year-old, full of rage and feeling alienated in Canada, Matthew longed for more. His heart set on reconnecting with his father and searching for fulfillment, he ventured to Los Angeles. Little did he know that his troubled past would persistently haunt him as he strove to complete the jigsaw puzzle of his own identity.

Chasing Fame and Facing Demons

Growing up in Los Angeles, Matthew Perry was surrounded by the world of entertainment. Witnessing his father indulge in alcohol, Matthew developed a similar habit as he tried to find his way in the acting world. Despite setbacks and insecurities, he remained focused on achieving fame. When the script for Friends Like Us, later known as Friends, came into his life, fate intervened, and he ultimately landed the career-defining role of Chandler Bing.

Young Matthew Perry grew up in the environment of Los Angeles, observing his father unwind with a stiff vodka tonic after a long day at work. As he learned how to drink from his father, he also discovered a talent for acting and pretending to be someone else. By 1986, Matthew had secured a few minor roles, gradually making his way in the acting world. It was after he grabbed the attention of a film director that he scored a part in the movie A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon. Although the film didn’t fare well, it brought him valuable connections, including a friendship with his co-star, River Phoenix.

During this time, Matthew’s love life exhibited a trend: he couldn’t maintain a serious relationship despite being a charming and attractive young man. Deep-rooted feelings of worthlessness convinced him that anyone who got too close would leave. This belief led to an all-consuming obsession with achieving fame. In its absence, Matthew sought solace in alcohol, downing copious amounts of vodka each night in secret.

As his chances at stardom began to dwindle and he missed several auditions, Matthew desperately sought any acting opportunity he could find. He managed to get the part in a struggling sci-fi comedy called L.A.X. 2194. It was around this time that he came across the script for Friends Like Us, which later became the iconic Friends. Feeling a connection to the character Chandler Bing, Matthew was immensely interested in the part. Fate intervened as Matthew’s friend, Craig Bierko, turned down the role of Chandler, and L.A.X. 2194 was not renewed for another season.

In a small, tenth-floor apartment, a desperate Matthew prayed for fame and success. Within three weeks, he landed the life-changing role of Chandler Bing on Friends. This marked the turning point in his acting career, where he finally found a way to fill the void that had once been dominated by alcohol and insecurities.

The Hidden Struggles of Matthew Perry

As Friends soared to stardom, the cast, including Matthew Perry, enjoyed the instant fame and camaraderie that the show brought. However, despite his success playing the charming Chandler Bing, Perry battled a crippling addiction that few knew about, jeopardizing his relationships, health, and career.

Before the first episode of Friends premiered, director Jimmy Burrows knew that the talented ensemble’s lives were about to change dramatically. He gave each actor $100 and told them to enjoy their last moments of anonymity. Indeed, the irresistible chemistry and prime time slot between Seinfeld and Mad About You made Friends an overnight sensation.

For Matthew Perry, this success meant happiness and a sense of gratitude. He embraced the inclusive and collaborative environment on set, contributing numerous jokes and ideas for all characters. Perry’s Chandler Bing quickly gained popularity, even attracting the attention of Julia Roberts, who guest-starred and later had a brief relationship with Perry.

Despite his incredible fortune and fame, Perry’s internal struggles grew darker. He secretly dealt with addiction, using alcohol to numb his emotional pain. The appeal of stardom could not fill the void in his heart, as he had hoped.

Perry’s addictive tendencies escalated shortly after a Jet Ski accident during the filming of his first major movie, Fools Rush In. Initially prescribed Vicodin for the pain, he was soon taking 55 pills per day. At just 26 years old, Perry found himself checked into rehab for the first time. However, his substance abuse continued to worsen, even after being diagnosed with pancreatitis at 30.

Though Perry never drank on the Friends set, his fellow actors began to worry about his increasingly disheveled state. This concern culminated in a gentle intervention, led by Jennifer Aniston in his trailer. Despite the support from his castmates and multiple stints in rehab, Perry’s troubles persisted.

In May 2001, a landmark episode of Friends aired, showcasing Monica and Chandler’s wedding, one of the most memorable moments in the series. As millions of viewers celebrated the characters’ union, Perry himself watched the episode from rehab.

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