Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Dark Details About Matthew Perry Left Out Of The Friends Reunion

The "Friends" reunion aired on HBO Max on May 27, 2021, 17 years after the show's finale in 2004. Cast members Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow, Courteney Cox, and Matthew Perry sat down for an unscripted special, reminiscing about their time making one of the most popular sitcoms of all time.

"Friends" was, and is a cultural institution, and the lives of all six cast members have been the subject of tabloid gossip for decades. Even so, the reunion special contained several new revelations that die-hard fans might not have heard before. For example, Aniston and Schwimmer admitted that they both had crushes on each other during the first season (via Yahoo), mirroring their characters Rachel and Ross. They claimed they never acted on it, but LeBlanc jokingly disagreed.

But one subject that loomed over the reunion was Matthew Perry's well-documented issues with substance abuse. 

As a child, Matthew Perry was more driven than most

Perry's Chandler Bing, the lovably sarcastic partner to Monica, is one of the most beloved sitcom characters of all time, especially for his "Can you BE any more [blank]?" catchphrase. But to many viewers, the bigger story from Perry's time on "Friends" is his struggle with substance abuse.

In a 2002 interview with The New York Times, Perry discussed his childhood drive for success. Once a top-ranked junior tennis player, Perry described himself as a "perfectionist" who drove himself to great lengths to achieve his goals. ”I needed to succeed at whatever I was doing so I could feel better about myself,” he said.

This drive continued into adulthood as he pursued acting. Being cast in "Friends" in 1994 was his big break and catapulted him to superstardom. Two years later, Perry was the lead in a rom-com opposite Salma Hayek. But the pressure of maintaining that success soon became unbearable. After the first day of shooting, Perry was being driven home when he asked the driver to pull over. ”I got out of the car and as I stood by the side of the road, I thought I was going to throw up,” he said. ”I thought, 'What have I gotten myself into?'"

Matthew Perry struggled with substance abuse throughout his time on Friends

Matthew Perry's struggles began in 1997, when he was hospitalized following a freak jet ski accident, which left him addicted to Vicodin. "It wasn't my intention to have a problem with it," he told People magazine in 2002. "But from the start I liked how it made me feel, and I wanted to get more." Perry was also abusing alcohol during this time. Between 1997 and 2001, Perry estimated that he was taking 20 to 30 pills a day and drinking a quart of vodka. 

The effects of long-term substance abuse affected Perry severely. He was hospitalized in 2000 with pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas that can be caused by alcoholism. The drugs and alcohol took a mental toll as well. In 2016, Perry told USA Today that he has no memories of filming the show between Seasons 3 and 6.

Perry finally realized he needed to change during a dark moment in a Dallas hotel room in 2001, which prompted him to call his parents for help. "I didn't get sober because I felt like it," he told The New York Times. "I got sober because I was worried I was going to die the next day." Perry re-entered rehab in 2001, and once again in 2011 to refocus on his sobriety.

Getting sober is a challenge for anyone, and Perry used his experiences to help others with their own struggles. In 2013, he opened a sober-living facility in Malibu called the Perry House. He was awarded the 2015 Phoenix Rising Award for his efforts to help others.

Matthew Perry's substance abuse issues didn't come up during the reunion special

Matthew Perry's fellow "Friends" cast and crew members were aware of his substance abuse issues, and many of them have commented on how it affected their relationship with him. "I tried to talk to him," Matt LeBlanc told People in 2002. "There wasn't a response. It's such a personal struggle; they need to bottom out on their own."

So by the time the "Friends" reunion aired in 2021, both Perry's views on the subject as well as those of his co-stars were well-known. Neither moderator James Corden nor any of the six cast members brought up the subject. But to some, like Variety reviewer Caroline Framke, Perry's substance abuse issues were still the elephant in the room. At one point, Perry joked about not keeping in touch with his co-workers from 17 years ago, which Framke interpreted to be related to his substance abuse.

In another telling moment, Perry discussed the pressure he felt while filming "Friends." He said he felt "like [he] was going to die if they didn't laugh," which he admitted wasn't healthy. Lisa Kudrow spoke for the rest of the cast when she said she wasn't aware of the pressure Perry was under.

Perry's recent tooth operation had fans concerned about a possible relapse

Even though Perry's substance abuse issues didn't come up during the special, they still cast a shadow over the reunion because of a promo video released in the days leading up to it. In a clip released on May 19, Perry talked about stealing a cookie jar prop from the show's set and was seemingly slurring his words. Tabloids like Page Six raised the alarm about Perry's health status and amplified similar comments from fans on social media.

But according to OK! Magazine, a source explained that Perry's slurred speech was due to an emergency tooth procedure earlier that day. "Obviously no one wants to film after a procedure, but it happened," the source said. "Matthew has told those around him that he is sober, and there is no need to worry."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).