Special Review | The Other Side of Chandler in "Friends"

After the end of "Friends ", any small changes or events would cause a great deal of attention, including the physical condition of Matthew Perry. Recently, Matthew has finally created his memoir "Friends, Lovers, and That Terrible Incident" for "Friends" fans.

If you look closely, you will notice that Chandler's weight fluctuated throughout the ten-year airing of "Friends". In particular, in the final episode of the third season, Chandler wore a white shirt, with a matchstick-like figure wrapped inside. During that season, Matthew was preoccupied with how to get 55 Vicodin pills (a painkiller) every day. He had to take 55 pills to feel enough, and his weight eventually dropped to only 120 pounds. During these ten years, he weighed over 200 pounds at his heaviest.

Another obvious example is when Chandler and Monica got engaged, which happened in the last episode of the sixth season and the first episode of the seventh season. Because it happened on the same night, Chandler had to wear the same clothes, but he lost more than 40 pounds in just a few months. When he was overweight, he was heavily drinking, and when he was thin, he was addicted to drugs.

Alcohol and Drug Addiction

Unlike the Hollywood tradition of employing ghostwriters, Matthew authored this memoir himself. The book, spanning over 500 pages, is a deeply startling read. It sheds light on the fact that this beloved icon, a man of immense charm who even drew the attention of Julia Roberts, had spent half of his life in and out of rehabilitation centers, grappling with alcohol and drug addiction.

Matthew, who is now 54 years old, has attended over 6,000 AA meetings about alcohol addiction, undergone 15 rehab programs, undergone 65 mandatory detoxes, spent approximately $9 million to overcome his alcohol and drug dependency, and had 14 surgeries, the latest of which was in January 2022. At that time, he was staying at a rehab center in Switzerland and was pretending to be in pain to receive 1,800 milligrams of Oxycodone (a pain reliever that is limited to 100 milligrams for even late-stage cancer patients in the US) and Ketamine every day. During the surgery in Switzerland, the doctor injected him with Propofol (a type of intravenous anesthetic). Eleven hours later, when he woke up, he found himself in another hospital and was informed that Propofol had caused his heart to stop for five minutes, and he had been saved by cardiopulmonary resuscitation, but also that eight of his ribs had been broken.

Stills from "Friends"

The most harrowing experience occurred in a rehab center in California in the early summer of 2019. Matthew's colon ruptured, and the surgery lasted for seven hours. The doctors said there was only a 2% chance of survival. After being in a coma for two full weeks, he finally woke up. After being discharged, Matthew even used pain as an excuse to deceive doctors into prescribing him opioids.

These hellish experiences were all caused by long-term alcohol abuse and addiction to drugs. Matthew's original intention for writing this memoir was to confess to these extreme and painful experiences and to let more people know how difficult it is to overcome addiction. Even as a big star who can spend a lot of money and employ all kinds of helpers, he cannot avoid relapsing time and time again.

Addiction, regret, recovery, relapse, attempting to escape oneself, and then repeating the cycle – these are essentially the themes of this book and Matthew's life. Perhaps due to having undergone so much psychological counseling, the memoir contains obvious self-analysis. The origins of his alcohol and drug abuse, as well as his feelings of inferiority and insecurity, can be traced back to some childhood deficiencies in his family of origin. Therefore, Matthew begins the book by writing about his experience of flying alone on an airplane at the age of four or five, and being an "unaccompanied minor" once became a life pattern he repeatedly simulated unconsciously in adulthood.

Matthew was born in Canada, and his parents divorced before he was one year old. His father went to Los Angeles to become an actor, while his mother stayed in Canada and later became a secretary to the Canadian Prime Minister. After remarrying, his mother gave birth to two more children. The book also jokes that "when Justin Trudeau (the current Canadian Prime Minister) came to power, I decided to stop arguing with him," because due to his mother's job, Matthew and Justin were childhood playmates. Matthew was two years older, and Justin probably got beaten up by him quite often.

It's not that he lacked love, but in that family, Matthew felt somewhat like an outsider. At the same time, he deeply felt abandoned by his biological father. As a child, he had a great sense of insecurity, believing that his existence was "not enough," which is why his father had to abandon him to find more satisfaction. This is also why his mother remarried and had two more children, and why he had to constantly seek solace in alcohol and drugs.

Regarding the Matthew and Julia Roberts situation

It was Julia Roberts who made the first move. It was 1995, and the first season of Friends had just aired with impressive ratings. The guest stars for the second season were being discussed, and Julia Roberts was already a huge star by then. She agreed to appear in the episode that aired after the Super Bowl, on the condition that her character appeared in Chandler's storyline.

One day, Matthew heard the big news from the show's creator, Kauffman, "You have to send flowers to Julia Roberts." Matthew was shocked when he heard the news and was even more thrilled when he found out why. He spent a long time thinking about what to write on the card that came with the flowers. He wanted to sound professional, like a (newly minted) big star, but he also wanted to add a touch of flirtation. In the end, Matthew came up with the following message, "The only thing more exciting than having you come on our show is finally having an excuse to send you flowers."

Julia's response came soon after, "If you can explain quantum physics to me, I'll do it." The response was sent via fax machine, and for the next three months, the two of them communicated back and forth through faxes, exchanging three to four messages a day. At the time, Julia was filming Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You in France. The faxes piled up, accumulating into a thick stack. In addition to quantum physics questions, Julia also asked Matthew a variety of other questions, including "Why should I go out with you?"

At the time, everyone on the "Friends" writing team knew that Julia had a crush on Matthew, and they were all in favor of it. In addition to writing Chandler's lines, the writers also came up with ideas to help Matthew pursue the big star. For three months, Julia and Matthew communicated via fax machine, exchanging messages three or four times a day. Julia was filming Woody Allen's "Everyone Says I Love You" in France at the time, and the faxes piled up into a thick stack. In addition to asking Matthew about quantum physics, Julia also asked him various questions, including "why should I date you."

Eventually, one fax said "Call me," with her phone number attached. The first call lasted an astonishing 5 and a half hours. They began a long-distance relationship over the phone, often talking for four or five hours at a time. Until one day, Julia said over the phone, "I'll be at your house at 2 pm on Saturday." On that particular Saturday, they were naturally together. So by the time they filmed Julia's episode, they were already a couple (just as Brad Pitt was dating Jennifer Aniston when he guest-starred a few years later). Not long after that, Julia Roberts appeared on David Letterman's show, and at the time, he wasn't an old man yet. He asked her directly, "Are you dating Matthew Perry?"

Of course, they were, and they talked very romantically. On the upcoming New Year's Eve in 1996, with snow falling, Julia took his hand and said, "Come with me." The two jumped into a blue car and drove up the mountain. Matthew sat in the passenger seat, watching the snow blowing past the window. When they reached the top of the mountain, the sky cleared and they could see New Mexico in the distance, as well as Canada, where Matthew had spent his childhood. On this mountaintop, the two welcomed 1996.

A few days later, they returned to New York to film Julia's episode. Their kissing scenes on the sofa were so real that people believed it was true--and it was. The sparks between this couple became the talk of the entire United States in the spring of 1996.

However, it was this year that Matthew got hooked on painkillers and soon became addicted. When he broke up with Julia in April, she was incredulous. After all, what man would break up with Julia Roberts? Matthew said that Julia's laugh "could launch a thousand ships," but at the same time, from the beginning, he thought that Julia would eventually break up with him, "I am shattered and not worthy of love." So he broke up with her first.

Love and Courage

Originally, Chandler was set up to be an "observer of humanity," a young man who views life through a comedic lens and makes jokes at the end of each episode, commenting on details that no one else notices.

However, the creators soon realized that they should integrate the personalities of the six actors into their characters. So, Kaufman had dinner with each of them separately. When it was Matthew's turn, he told Kaufman two things: first, despite his lack of confidence, he always manages to attract many girls, but the relationships always end in disaster; second, he cannot stand the silence in a room and feels compelled to break it with jokes. These two traits became Chandler's defining characteristics and were the source of many laughs. Chandler quickly found his place among the six-person ensemble and was wholly embraced by the audience.

Regarding love, Matthew in real life is similar to Chandler, but Chandler has Monica, so he eventually grows into a mature man and starts a happy family life over ten years. On the other hand, Matthew seems to have been stuck in his early twenties, still dealing with the same issues at fifty. The only difference is that those small problems have snowballed into boulders that can crush him.

Matthew is a creator with comedic talent. The cast and crew of "Friends" were exceptionally open, and everyone could contribute jokes. He was the one who contributed the most. It is almost certain that if not for his addiction to alcohol and drugs, Matthew could have created more comedy and more screen images for us.

On the other side of the screen, his real life is still dominated by self-torture. He is a typical example of human suffering, an overly self-centered, insecure man who may have become so because of his excessive self-attention. He was once destroyed by drug addiction and alcoholism.

He was able to rediscover himself after the age of fifty and look back at those painful memories. His frank memoir probably indicates one thing: that the driving force for human life cannot come from fear, but must be love and courage.

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