Friends star Matthew Perry dies at 54

Matthew Perry was best known for his longtime role as Chandler in the hugely successful Friends...
Matthew Perry was best known for his longtime role as Chandler in the hugely successful Friends which ran for 10 seasons. Photo: Reuters
Actor Matthew Perry, who gained fame in the 1990s as the wise-cracking Chandler Bing in the top-rated US television comedy Friends and chronicled his decades-long battle with substance abuse in a memoir last year, has died aged 54.

His death on Saturday was confirmed in a statement posted by NBC, the broadcast network that aired Friends for 10 years, on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

"We are incredibly saddened by the too soon passing of Matthew Perry," NBC Entertainment said. "He brought so much joy to hundreds of millions of people around the world with his pitch perfect comedic timing and wry wit. His legacy will live on through countless generations." 

The Los Angeles Times and, both citing unnamed law enforcement sources, reported that the American-Canadian performer was found dead in a hot tub or jacuzzi. 

NBC News, citing an unnamed representative of Perry and a law enforcement source, reported the actor was found dead of an apparent drowning at his home in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Ironically, Perry's last post on Instagram, on October  23, was a photo of him sitting by a pool or jacuzzi at night, with him writing, "Oh, so warm water swirling around makes you feel good? I'm Mattman."

The cast of "Friends" at the Emmy Awards in 2002. From left: David Schwimmer, Lisa Kudrow,...
The cast of "Friends" at the Emmy Awards in 2002. From left: David Schwimmer, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Courteney Cox Arquette, Jennifer Aniston and Matt LeBlanc. Photo: Reuters
Friends screened from 1994 to 2004, co-starring Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow.

The series made international celebrities out of all six castmates. They played a close-knit group of young adults who shared space in one another's apartments and met for coffee at the "Central Perk," a fictional Manhattan cafe.

One of the major story lines involved a clandestine romance between Chandler and Monica Geller, the character played by Cox, which the four other friends - Rachel, Joey, Phoebe and Ross - each discovered one by one.

The entire cast came back together 17 years after the series finale for a much-ballyhooed reunion special that aired on HBO Max in 2021.

But none ever managed to rekindle quite the level of individual stardom and commercial success they garnered as the ensemble cast of what was for a time the most watched US television programme in prime time. Each reportedly earned $US1 million per episode at the height of the show's popularity.

Hidden from the public's view during much of the original run was Perry's prolonged struggle with addiction to prescription drugs and alcohol, which he detailed in his 2022 memoir, Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing.

"Hi, my name is Matthew, although you may know me by another name. My friends call me Matty. And I should be dead," Perry wrote in the opening of the book.

In a New York Times interview published in October 2022, Perry said he had been clean for 18 months, telling the newspaper: "I've probably spent $9 million or something trying to get sober."

Perry recounted in his book that he had to be driven back to rehab right after shooting the episode of Chandler and Monica's wedding.

Following Friends, Perry went on to star in a least three more network television ventures that proved short-lived - Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Mr. Sunshine and Go On.

He also logged guest appearances or recurring roles in other hit TV shows, including The West Wing, Ally McBeal, Scrubs and Beverly Hills, 90210.

His motion picture credits included Fools Rush In, The Whole Nine Yards, Almost Heroes and Three to Tango.

The Massachusetts-born actor grew up in Ottawa after his mother, a Canadian journalist who once served as press secretary to former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, divorced Perry's father and married a Canadian broadcast personality.

At the age of 15, Perry moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting and improvisational comedy.

While his onscreen persona was funny and upbeat, Perry suffered behind the scenes, most notably from his addiction to drugs, specifically painkillers, and alcohol.

He was addicted to Vicodin for years, even while he was filming Friends, and had been in and out of rehab during peak stardom.

Perry got candid about the painful chapter of his life in his memoir, which was released last year. In Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing: A Memoir, he detailed the struggles he faced throughout his career, such as his evident weight fluctuations on the show.

During his press tour for the book, Perry did a number of interviews where he got incredibly emotional about his public battle.

The actor never married, but he was briefly engaged to Molly Hurwitz a few years ago which ended six months later. Before that, he’d been linked to Lizzy Caplan.

- Reuters and NZ Herald