‘Friends’ star Matthew Perry dead at 54, found in hot tub at L.A. home, sources say

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OCTOBER 28, 2023

Matthew Perry on Nov. 17, 2022. – Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic

“Friends” star Matthew Perry was found dead Saturday in a hot tub at his Los Angeles home, law enforcement sources said. He was 54.

Authorities responded about 4 p.m. to his home, where he was discovered unresponsive. The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing, did not cite a cause of death. No drugs were found at the scene, sources said. Additionally, no foul play is suspected, according to law enforcement sources. A representative for Perry did not immediately respond to The Times’ request for comment.

The Los Angeles Police Department’s robbery-homicide detectives are investigating the death. The cause of death will be determined at a later date by the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.

“We are devastated by the passing of our dear friend Matthew Perry,” Warner Bros. Television Group, which produced “Friends,” said in a statement. “Matthew was an incredibly gifted actor and an indelible part of the Warner Bros. Television Group family. 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.”

Saturday evening yellow-and-black LAPD crime scene tape blocked off the entrance to Bluesail Drive, a tony street just off the Pacific Coast Highway at the crest of a hill with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean.

Shortly after 7 p.m., as multiple helicopters whirred overhead, Perry’s mother, Suzanne, and her husband, broadcaster Keith Morrison, joined the journalists and LAPD officers on the scene. Morrison declined to comment.

The police were barring journalists from passing the crime scene tape onto Bluesail. An LAPD officer at the scene said he had no information and that he did not know when any would be forthcoming.

Perry’s stepfather, Canadian broadcaster Keith Morrison, crosses under the police tape near Perry’s house in Los Angeles Saturday night. ((Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times))

Perry, the son of actor John Bennett Perry and Suzanne Marie Langford, onetime press secretary of Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, was born in 1969 and grew up between Montreal and Los Angeles after his parents separated when Perry was 1.

He got his start as a child actor, landing guest spots on “Charles in Charge” and “Beverly Hills 90210” and playing opposite River Phoenix in the film “A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon” in the 1980s and early 1990s.

But his big break came when he was cast in “Friends” — originally titled “Friends Like Us” — a sitcom about six single New Yorkers navigating adulthood that premiered on NBC in 1994.

The series soon became a juggernaut, the anchor of the network’s vaunted Thursday-night “Must-See TV” lineup, and turned Perry and his castmates Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox Arquette, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer into mega-stars almost overnight. At its high-water mark — for a 1996 Super Bowl episode and the 2004 series finale, the series notched more than 50 million live viewers; by its end, cast members were earning more than $1 million an episode.

As Chandler Bing, the handsome, wisecracking roommate of LeBlanc’s Joey Tribbiani and, later, love interest of Cox’s fastidious Monica Geller, Perry distinguished himself in a crackling ensemble cast. With his dry delivery he created a catchphrase with a mere turn of inflection, based on banter he’d shared with childhood friends: Could he be any more Chandler?

Soon, he was attached to major stars like Julia Roberts and appearing in prominent films such as 1997 rom-com “Fools Rush in,” opposite Salma Hayek, and 2000 ensemble mob comedy “The Whole Nine Yards” with Bruce Willis.

There was a dark side to the life of one of television’s most beloved funnymen, however. In his 2022 memoir “Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing,” Perry recounted his lifelong struggle with addiction to alcohol and opioids. He wrote that he had his first drink at 14, but didn’t recognize the signs of alcoholism until 21. Since then, he estimated, he’d spent more than $7 million on efforts to get sober, including multiple stints in rehab. His substance abuse also led to a number of serious health issues, including a five-month hospitalization in 2018 following a colon rupture that left him, he wrote, with a 2% chance to live through the night.

And it was fueled, he acknowledged during a “Friends” reunion special in 2021, by the pressure to land the joke in front of a live studio audience night after night.

The cast of “Friends,” clockwise from bottom left: Courteney Cox Arquette as Monica Geller, Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani, Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay, David Schwimmer as Ross Geller, Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing and Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green. ((NBC/NBCUniversal via Getty Images))

“Nobody wanted to be famous more than me,” Perry told The Times in April, discussing “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing” at the Festival of Books. “I was convinced it was the answer. I was 25, it was the second year of ‘Friends,’ and eight months into it, I realized the American dream is not making me happy, not filling the holes in my life. I couldn’t get enough attention. … Fame does not do what you think it’s going to do. It was all a trick.”

Though Perry estimated he had relapsed “60 or 70 times” since first getting sober in 2001, he maintained a steady presence on American television, playing key parts in backstage dramedy “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” and therapy sitcom “Go On,” and making a steady stream of guest appearances on acclaimed shows such as “The West Wing” and “The Good Wife.”

Since his near-death experience in 2018, Perry had found solace in friends, frequent games of pickleball and, especially, writing. Though producing “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing” had forced him to relive his darkest moments, it also connected him to “all the sufferers out there”: “I had a story to tell, a story that could really help people,” he wrote. “And helping others had become the answer for me.”

Indeed, for all his success as an actor and, more recently, as a bestselling memoirist, Perry told The Times in April that his work was not the center of what he hoped would be his legacy.

Pressed to name how he’d like to be remembered, he said: “As a guy who lived life, loved well, lived well and helped people. That running into me was a good thing, and not something bad.”


Courtesy:  This story originally appeared in LA Times.