Hours before his tragic death, Matthew Perry was doing something he’d come to love: playing pickleball. The Friends star — who was found dead in his Jacuzzi at his Los Angeles home on October 28 at the age of 54 — had played earlier in the day and, according to his former coach, Matthew Manasse, had been hitting the courts four to five days a week for the past two years.
“It doesn’t seem real,” Manasse told Us of Perry’s untimely demise. Adds a source: “Matthew was keeping a healthy lifestyle. He was [trying to] get back to where he [used] to be. When he was on the pickleball court, he was happy.”
By most accounts, Perry had been in good spirits in recent months. Amid a decades-long battle with alcohol and drug addiction — which he detailed in his 2022 memoir, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing — he was working on getting fit and spent most of his time watching and playing sports and hanging out with loved ones.
In a joint statement released on Oct. 29, family members said, “We are heartbroken by the tragic loss of our beloved son and brother. Matthew brought so much joy to the world, both as an actor and a friend. You all meant so much to him and we appreciate the tremendous outpouring of love.”
As of press time, authorities were waiting on toxicology reports before announcing Perry’s official cause of death.
“Matthew’s main pleasures were chilling at home with friends and seeing his family,” says a second source, noting that he was “extremely close” with his parents. “He was also getting out and being as active as possible.”
On October 21, he was photographed grabbing lunch with a pal at an iconic L.A. burger joint, The Apple Pan, and he’d been keeping fans updated with posts on social media. He smiled alongside his dad, John, in a photo shared to Instagram on October 15.
That same day, he’d been texting back and forth with his A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon costar Ione Skye. After his death, the actress posted a screenshot of their conservation on Instagram, in which Perry told his old friend she was on his mind and that he’d been meditating (“I meditate now,” he wrote).
“Generally,” says the second source, “Matthew was doing a whole lot better.”
Perry found fame playing Chandler Bing on Friends, which ran from 1994 to 2004, and was celebrated for his quick wit and biting sarcasm, earning an Emmy nod for the role. In the late ’90s and early 2000s, he made the jump to movies with Fools Rush In and The Whole Nine Yards alongside Bruce Willis.
He was one of the biggest stars in the world — and highest paid: By the end of Friends, Perry and his costars were taking home $1 million per episode. But behind the scenes, addiction was ruining his life. At his lowest point, he was taking 55 Vicodin a day and weighed just 128 pounds. “I didn’t know how to stop,” he said. “The disease and the addiction is progressive, so it gets worse and worse as you grow older.”
Perry spared no details when he opened up about his struggles with alcohol and drug addiction over the years. In Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, he recalled spending two months in a coma and five months in the hospital when his colon burst in 2018 due to excessive drug use. He underwent a seven-hour surgery, and doctors told his family members he had a two percent chance of surviving. “It was almost certain at that point that I was going to die,” he wrote.
In 2020, he proposed to ex Molly Hurwitz while hopped up on “1,800 milligrams of hydrocodone,” he revealed. “[I was] high as a kite,” he recounted in his memoir. “And on one knee. And she knew it, too. And she said yes.” (They split in June 2021.)
He also admitted to spending “upwards of $7 million” trying to get sober over the years and doing 15 stints in rehab — one of which took place when his onscreen alter ego, Chandler Bing, was set to marry Monica Gellar (played by Courteney Cox). “Not only do I have the disease, but I also have it bad,” Perry wrote. “Even on good days, when I’m sober and I’m looking forward, it’s still with me all the time.”
In 2021, Perry sparked concern following his appearance in the Friends reunion special. During the show, his speech appeared to be slurred and he seemed emotionally fragile, even breaking down in tears while discussing the close bond he shared with his castmates.
“People had been worried about him because he wasn’t in the best form during the reunion taping,” reveals a third source, who says the cast and crew “are filled with grief and heartbreak” over the loss. “Of course, there was an initial feeling of ‘Could we have done something more for him?’ They are all just incredibly sad.”
“We are all so utterly devastated by the loss of Matthew,” Perry’s Friends costars said in a statement to Us on October 30. “We were more than just cast mates. We are a family. There is so much to say, but right now we’re going to take a moment to grieve and process this unfathomable loss.”
The following year, he revealed he’d been mostly sober since 2001, admitting to occasional relapses. The release of Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing had been a cathartic experience for him. “Matthew put his heart and soul into that project and was elated when it became a bestseller,” says the second source. “He got closure from it.”
The source says Perry’s main objective with the book was to help others suffering from addiction. (In 2013, the Canada native converted his former Malibu home into a sober living facility for fellow addicts.)
“The outpouring of positivity he received from fans, friends and his peers was something that made him feel ten feet tall,” says the source. “He got more satisfaction from that than he ever imagined possible.”
In late 2022, Perry sat down with podcast host Tom Power and reflected on his life and how he most wants to be remembered. “When I die, I know people will talk about Friends, Friends, Friends. And I’m glad of that, happy I’ve done some solid work as an actor, as well as given people multiple chances to make fun of my struggles on the world wide web,” he said. “But when I die, as far as my so-called accomplishments go, it would be nice if Friends were listed far behind the things I did to try to help other people.”