The Biggest Bombshells From Matthew Perry’s Book: From Near-Death Experiences to His Friends Crush

In Matthew Perry's new memoir Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing, the actor gets candid about his struggles with sobriety and the iconic Friends scene he left rehab to film.

By Tierney Bricker Nov 01, 2022 10:00 AMTags
Watch: Matthew Perry Apologizes to Keanu Reeves After Memoir Diss

"Hi, my name is Matthew, although you may know me by another name. My friends call me Matty. And I should be dead."

That is how Matthew Perry introduces himself in his highly anticipated new memoir, Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing, with the beloved Friends star treating readers like close confidants as he shares the details of his previously private struggles with addiction. After having his first drink at age 14, Perry battled both alcohol and drug abuse, revealing in the book that he has spent over $7 million trying to get sober. Perry, 53, has now been clean for 18 months.

In addition to divulging deeply personal stories about his sobriety journey, Perry also took Friends fans behind-the-scenes of the classic NBC sitcom, revealing which co-star he had a massive crush on and the iconic scene he filmed just before returning to treatment. Plus, The Whole Nine Yards actor dished on his shortlived '90s relationship with Julia Roberts and the two other A-listers he briefly romanced.

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Inside Matthew Perry's $21 Million Los Angeles Penthouse

Here are all the revelations that had us saying, "Oh. My. God."

His Near-Death Experience

In Matthew Perry's memoir Friends, Lovers and the Big, Terrible Thing, the Friends star revealed just how close he came to dying in 2018. While staying in a sober living home in Southern California, his colon "exploded" from years of opioid overuse. The actor ended up spending two weeks in a coma and five months in a hospital. Perry also had to use a colostomy bag for nine months, which he noted broke at least 55 times. ("Dear Colostomy Bag People: make a bag that doesn't break, you f--king morons," he joked. "Did I make you laugh on Friends? If so, don't put shit all over my face.")

"I had been on opiates, and off opiates, and back on different opiates for so long that I suffered from a situation that only a subset of the population gets," Perry wrote of his organ exploding, sharing he had 14 follow-up surgeries after the initial seven-hour emergency procedure. "Opiates cause constipation. It's kind of poetic. I was so full of shit it almost killed me."

As he was in surgery, Perry revealed his family and friends who arrived at the hospital were told, "'Matthew has 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."

The Time His Heart Stopped

Perry was originally supposed to have a role in Adam McKay's Netflix film Don't Look Up, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence and Meryl Streep. But a medical scare caused him to exit the Oscar-nominated movie.

During a 2020 stay at a Switzerland-based treatment center, Perry admitted he falsified symptoms to receive a prescription of hydrocodone, which proved to be near fatal when mixed with the propofol he was given for a surgery. "I was given the shot at eleven a.m.," Perry wrote. "I woke up 11 hours later in a different hospital. Apparently, the propofol had stopped my heart. For five minutes."

While he didn't have a heart attack or flatline, Perry explained, "Nothing had been beating. 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. If I hadn't been on Friends, would he have stopped at three minutes? Did Friends save my life again?"

Ultimately, the life-saving tactics caused eight broken ribs and Perry was in "too much pain" to continue filming Don't Look Up, which he called "heartbreaking," and the one scene he did complete did not make the final cut of the movie. 

His Sobriety Statistics

"I have spent upward of $7 million trying to get sober," Perry revealed. "I have been to six thousand AA meetings. (Not an exaggeration, more an educated guess.) I've been  to rehab fifteen times. I've been in a mental institution, gone to therapy twice a week for thirty years, been to death's door."

At the time the book was published, Perry had been sober for 18 months.

"Sobriety had now become the most important thing in my life," Perry wrote. "Because I learned that if you put anything in front of sobriety, you will lose that 'anything' anyway if you drink."

In the book, Perry shared that he viewed alcohol as his "best friend," admitting, "I would have gone crazy without it...Learning to move forward in life without it was tantamount to asking someone to go about his or her day without breathing."

And, after suffering an injury on the set of Fools Rush In, Perry developed an addiction to Vicodin and was taking 55 pills a day before checking into rehab for the first time in 1997.

Being Diagnosed With Pancreatitis

While filming Friends in 2000, Perry spent 30 days in the hospital being "fed fluids through an IV" after he was told his excessive drinking was the cause of his pancreatitis.

"'F--k that,' I said," Perry recalled telling the doctor. "No. I don't drink too much.' Pancreatitis at the age of thirty was unheard of. Yay for me! Another record."

While recovering in the hospital, Perry was given Dilaudid, an opioid that changes the brain's relationship to pain. "It was my new favorite drug," he admitted, "and I would have stayed in that hospital for a hundred days if they kept administrating it."

The Time He Asked Out Jennifer Aniston

Three years before they were cast in Friends, Perry and Jennifer Aniston met through mutual acquaintances and he was "immediately taken by" her. Believing the attraction was mutual, Perry asked Aniston out, an offer she declined. "But she said she'd love to be friends with me," Perry recalled. "And I compounded the compound by blurting, 'We can't be friends!'"

While he admitted he was "still attracted" to her when the Friends cast assembled for the first time, Perry wrote, "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." (Though he later admitted he was "crushing badly" on Aniston early on in the show's run, but her "deafening lack of interest" eventually brought it to an end.)

As for his first impressions for the rest of his co-stars, Perry described Courteney Cox as "cripplingly beautiful" and Lisa Kudrow as "just as gorgeous and hilarious and incredibly smart" as a mutual friend had said she would be. Matt LeBlanc was "nice and a cool customer," while David Schwimmer was "incredibly funny."

Perry said the six actors formed a close bond, writing, "From that first morning we were inseparable."

That's What Friends Was For

Perry shared that he temporarily lost a friend after he was cast on the NBC hit, having landed the part after close pal Craig Bierko choose to star in another pilot rather than play Chandler. The decision that led Bierko to not speak to Perry for years. In the plus column, though, the series saved him.

"It is not out of the realms of possibility that I may have ended up on the streets of downtown LA shooting heroin in my arm until my untimely death," he wrote, adding that it was "such a good and fun job" that it was worth remaining sober—"for awhile, at least."

"I was the second baseman for the New York Yankees. I couldn't f--k that up," he reasoned. "I would never forgive myself. When you're earning $1 million a week, you can't afford to have the seventeenth drink."

But it would be his friends on Friends that would help to once save his life a second time during the show's run, most notably Aniston, who confronted Perry about his drinking.

"'We can smell it,' she said, in a kind of weird but loving way, and the plural 'we' hit me like a sledgehammer," Perry wrote of the conversation, which he described as "devastating" and said led him to hire a sober companion at work (though he later revealed that the ninth season was the only one he was wholly sober for).

The One Where Chandler Married Monica

In the book, Perry revealed he was able to briefly leave his treatment center in Malibu to film Chandler and Monica's wedding in season seven.

"When I arrived, Jen Aniston said, 'I've been mad at you,'" Perry recalled. "'Honey,' I said, 'if you knew what I'd been through, you would notbe mad at me.'"

"With that we hugged, and I got the work done," he continued. "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."

His Shortlived Romance With Julia Roberts

Perry and Erin Brokovich star Julia Roberts were once an item in the '90s. And in the book, the actor candidly opened up about their brief romance, which began shortly after Roberts signed on to guest star in a 1996 episode of Friends.

While they only dated for a few months, Perry recalled meeting Roberts' parents for the first time when he joined her family trip to New Mexico to ring in the New Year.

"We jumped in this big blue truck and drove up a mountain, snow swirling around," the 17 Again star wrote. "Eventually we reached a mountaintop, and for a moment the weather cleared, and we could see New Mexico and beyond, all the way back to Canada. As we sat there, she made me feel like the king of the world. A gentle snow was falling, and with that, 1996 began.

But their romance only lasted three months because "dating Julia Roberts had been too much for me," Perry admitted. "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. So instead of facing the inevitable agony of losing her, I broke up with the beautiful and brilliant Julia Roberts."

Secret A-List Dates Revealed

Just before Friends premiered in September 1994, Perry kissed Gwyneth Paltrow in a closet while he was visiting his grandfather in Massachusetts and the Goop founder was doing a play in the area.

"At some big party we slipped off into a broom cupboard and made out," he detailed. "We were both still unknown enough that it didn't make it to the tabloids."

Paltrow wasn't the only star Perry had a secret encounter with, the actor divulging the details of a date he went on with Cameron Diaz just after she broke up with Justin Timberlake in 2007.

"The date was at a dinner party with a bunch of other people, but upon seeing me, Cameron got almost instantly stoned," Perry wrote. "It was clear that she wasn't interested in me at all."

And during a game of Pictionary, Diaz meant to playfully punch Perry in the shoulder, "but she missed," Perry recalled, "and instead, punched me smack in the side of my face. 'Are you fucking kidding me?' I said, realizing I'd just been punched in the face by Cameron Diaz."

His Memorable Encounter With Valerie Bertinelli

Perry revealed he "fell madly in love" with Hot in Cleveland actress Valerie Bertinelli when they filmed the 1990 movie Sydney and that he was having "elaborate fantasies about her leaving Eddie Van Halen and living out the rest of her days" with him instead. (Bertinelli and Van Halen were married from 1981 to 2007 and remained close until the Van Halen guitarist died in 2020.)

According to Perry, he and Bertinelli had "a long, elaborate make-out session" while her rocker husband was passed out "not 10 feet away."

"I told her I had thought about doing that for a long time," he divulged. "And she had said it right back to me." However, Perry was left "devastated" when Bertinelli never mentioned what happened again...until 2022, when she posted a TikTok in response to Perry's revelation about their kiss.

In the video, Bertinelli waves at the camera and smiles, before facepalming and shaking her head as the lyrics "It's me / Hi / I'm the problem, it's me" from Taylor Swift's "Anti-Hero" play in the background. "Anyone else misbehave in their 20's and early 30's?" she captioned the post. "Are you mortified?"

The Proposal He Barely Remembers

While staying at rehabilitation facility in Switzerland, Perry revealed he proposed to his then-girlfriend, whom he doesn't name, while he was "high on 1,800 milligrams of hydrocodone." 

"I had even asked for her family's blessing," he continued. "Then I'd proposed, high as a kite. And on one knee. And she knew it, too. And she said yes."

The two remained engaged after Perry returned to Los Angeles, though the actor admitted thinking, "'Wait...how did I get engaged? There are dogs living in my house. How did this happen?'"

Reflecting on his decision to propose, Perry connected it to his fear of abandonment. "I bought her a ring because I was desperate that she would leave me," he admitted Ultimately, Perry said he "was not ready" for marriage or any kind of commitment.

"You went down on one knee to propose, which really hurt your stomach, remember?" he wrote. "I didn't remember—needless to say, we broke up."

His Keanu Reeves Diss

Several of Perry's comments about The Matrix star—including a passage where he questioned why "Keanu Reeves still walks among us" as he reflected on the deaths of "original thinkers" River Phoenix and Heath Ledger—made headlines, leading Perry to issue an apology.

"I'm actually a big fan of Keanu," the actor told People in an Oct. 26 statement. "I just chose a random name, my mistake. I apologize. I should have used my own name instead."

Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing is available wherever you buy books. 

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