Matthew Perry, ‘Friends’ star, dead at 54
Oct 28, 2023, 7:16 PM | Updated: 10:17 pm
(Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock via CNN)
(CNN) — Matthew Perry, the beloved actor who starred as Chandler Bing on “Friends,” has died. He was 54.
Police in Los Angeles are investigating Perry’s death, a law enforcement source tells CNN.
Perry died in an apparent drowning accident at his Los Angeles home on Saturday, according to the Los Angeles Times, citing law enforcement sources. No foul play is suspected, the sources told the LA Times.
“We are devastated by the passing of our dear friend Matthew Perry. Matthew was an incredibly gifted actor and an indelible part of the Warner Bros. Television Group family,” Warner Bros. Television Group said in a statement to CNN. “The impact of his comedic genius was felt around the world, and his legacy will live on in the hearts of so many. This is a heartbreaking day, and we send our love to his family, his loved ones, and all of his devoted fans.”
Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey told CNN a 911 call came in at 4:07 p.m. for a water rescue emergency. Humphrey said it is unclear what body of water it was.
Representatives for Perry did not return CNN’s requests for comment.
Born in Williamstown, Massachusetts, to an actor father and a journalist mother, Perry went to live with her in Ottawa, Canada, as a youngster after his parents split.
Growing up, Perry pursued his passion for tennis and became a top-ranked tennis player in Canada. Like his father, the younger Perry also developed an interest in acting after moving to Los Angeles when he was a teen to live with him.
Perry’s first credited role was a small part in the drama “240-Robert” in 1979. From there other bit parts came his way in shows including “Charles in Charge,” “Silver Spoons” and “The Tracey Ullman Show.”
His first film role was while still in high school, playing opposite River Phoenix in the 1988 film “A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon.” The year before the film’s release, Perry starred in the sitcom “Second Chances” (later renamed “Boys Will Be Boys”), about a man who dies and returns to earth to mentor his younger self, played by Perry.
The series failed to find its audience, but Perry continued to land more high profile roles in TV projects including “Growing Pains,” “Who’s The Boss” and “Beverly Hills, 90210.”
But it was being cast as affable and sarcastic Chandler on the sitcom “Friends” in 1994 that made him famous.
The quirky role earned him a Primetime Emmy nomination in 2002. He also enjoyed four other nominations for the prestigious TV acting award, including two for his turn as Joe Quincy on “The West Wing.”
(“Friends” was a production of Warner Bros. Television, which is owned by CNN’s parent company, Waner Bros. Discovery.)
On “Friends,” Perry starred alongside Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston and Lisa Kudrow in the comedy about a tight knit group of friends living in New York City.
The group became fixtures of NBC’s unparalleled “Must-See TV” lineup, encountering a level of fame rarely seen in television or anywhere else.
Off screen, the actors became as close as their characters on the show, and famously negotiated together to become some of the highest paid actors on a television series at the time.
The show helped bolster Perry’s career and he soon landed roles on the big screen in 1997’s “Fools Rush In,” “Almost Heroes” in 1998 and “The Whole Nine Yards” in 2000.
While “Friends” was his best known TV series, Perry also starred in “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” “Mr. Sunshine,”and “The Odd Couple.”
In November 2022, he published a memoir titled “Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing: A Memoir.”
In it, Perry revealed that his opioid abuse led to a colon rupture when he was 49. Doctors gave him a two percent chance of survival, he wrote, and he was in a coma for two weeks followed by months more in the hospital.
The actor 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.
“What I’m most surprised with is my resilience,” he told People last year, in reference to the book. “The way that I can bounce back from all of this torture and awfulness. Wanting to tell the story, even though it’s a little scary to tell all your secrets in a book, I didn’t leave anything out. Everything’s in there.”
Perry was candid about his struggles with addiction, which he battled even at the height of his career.
“I was taking 55 Vicodin a day, I weighed 128 pounds, I was on Friends getting watched by 30 million people—and that’s why I can’t watch the show, ’cause I was brutally thin,” Perry said in a CBC interview last year. “I didn’t watch the show, and haven’t watched the show, because I could go, ‘Drinking, opiates, drinking, cocaine,’” he said. “I could tell season by season, by how I looked. That’s why I don’t wanna watch it, because that’s what I see.”
Perry began dating literary manager Molly Hurwitz in 2018 and the pair got engaged in 2020. They ended their engagement in 2021, with Perry saying in a statement at the time, “Sometimes things just don’t work out and this is one of them. I wish Molly the best.”
The verified Instagram account for “Friends” posted a heartfelt tribute to Perry on Saturday night, writing, “We are devastated to learn of Matthew Perry’s passing. He was a true gift to us all.”
Maggie Wheeler, who played Chandler’s on/off again girlfriend Janice on the show, wrote on her Instagram, “What a loss.”
“The world will miss you Mathew Perry,” she continued. “The joy you brought to so many in your too short lifetime will live on. I feel so very blessed by every creative moment we shared.”
Selma Blair, who also appeared on “Friends,” called Perry her “oldest boy friend” on her Instagram. “All of us loved Matthew Perry, and I did especially. Every day. I loved him unconditionally. And he me. And I’m broken. Broken hearted. Sweet dreams Matty.”
Michael Rapaport, who played Gary in four episodes of the show, wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that Perry was “Always so nice, cool, chill & talented.” He added, “You are a part of American Culture and will live on forever.”
Perry’s “Odd Couple” costar Yvette Nicole Brown wrote on X that the show’s “family suffered a great loss today. The entire entertainment world has.”
She also wrote that Perry “was a sweetheart who deserved more peace in this life. 54 is too young to go.”
This story is developing and will be updated.