- Matthew Perry’s speech sounded slurred in a promo for HBO Max’s Friends reunion.
- The video prompted concern from fans, but a source has claimed that emergency dental work caused his impediment.
- Perry, 51, endured a trying struggle with painkiller and alcohol addiction for 20 years.
Ahead of the long anticipated Friends reunion, which will debut May 27 on HBO Max, People published a sneak peek interview with the iconic cast. It was the first time Matthew Perry, who played the beloved Chandler Bing, had been on-camera in years—and fans were taken aback by what they saw.
Perry, 51, was quiet for most of the interview. And when he did speak, he seemed to slur his words—especially when he recounted the souvenir he took from the Friends set after filming.
“I stole the cookie jar that had the clock on it,” he said, pronouncing “stole” with a “sh” sound. “I gave it to Lisa Kudrow.” In the trailer, he became emotional, stating, “I’m going to cry now” before leaning into Jennifer Aniston for comfort.
After watching the footage, fans immediately expressed concern for Perry’s well-being, knowing that he’s struggled with addiction for much of his life.
“Is Matthew ok?” one person tweeted. “Just saw [the] People interview and can’t believe how Matthew Perry looks like... seriously it breaks my heart,” another wrote. “Hurting to see Perry this way,” someone else commented. “I wish Matthew Perry so much solace and peace, he’s been through so much and I really appreciate him doing this appearance for us,” another commented on the video.
A few days after concerns arose, a source told The Sun that Perry’s words were garbled due to emergency dental work. “He had been in pain from what we understand, which caused the slurred speech,” the source said. “Obviously no one wants to film after a procedure, but it happened.”
The source continued, clarifying that Perry had not relapsed: “Matthew has told those around him that he is sober, and there is no need to worry.”
Despite him being out of the spotlight over the last few years, the actor’s journey to sobriety was a very public one.
In 1997, a jet ski accident introduced Perry to pain killers.
Just three years into filming Friends, Perry found himself depending on Vicodin (hydrocodone/acetaminophen) even after his accident-related injuries healed. “It wasn’t my intention to have a problem with it,” he told People in 2002. “But from the start I liked how it made me feel, and I wanted to get more.”
Fans noticed a downturn in his health when he suddenly lost 20 pounds, which was documented well on the show. “I was out of control and very unhealthy,” he said, jokingly adding, “I returned to my original birth weight.”
That year, Perry admitted himself to rehab. According to People, he spent 28 days in Hazelden rehab center in Minnesota, but the sobriety didn’t last long after he returned home. “I was able to stay sober for a brief period,” he said. “But I didn’t really get it.”
In 2000, he was hospitalized for alcohol-induced pancreatitis.
Perry spent two weeks in L.A.’s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, per People. “Unfortunately,” he explained, “that still wasn’t enough to get me to quit drinking.” By 2001, he was drinking a quart of vodka daily in between filming Friends and Serving Sara. “Never when working,” he told People. “But the hangover is brutal. I was sleepy and shaking at work.”
At the time, Friends producer Marta Kauffman told the publication “it was terrifying, watching someone you care about in so much pain."”
In 2001, Perry made a desperate call to his parents for help.
Throughout his ongoing substance misuse, friends and family reached out to Perry to offer support. He usually wasn’t ready to hear it—until he was. On February 23, 2001, the actor called his parents. “I was in fear of losing my life,” he said. “There’s a moment of clarity where you have to prioritize your life. I listened to it.”
Friends was still in production at the time, and his parents drove him to an undisclosed rehab center where he spent two and a half months in treatment. “It was scary. I didn’t want to die,” he told People. “But I’m grateful for how bad it got. It only made me more adamant about trying to get better.” He added that the experience showed him “that a happy life is possible without alcohol or drugs.” And so his sober journey began.
In 2011, he checked himself into rehab to “focus” on his sobriety.
Naturally, he told the world about it in a dry, humorous way. “I’m making plans to go away for a month to focus on my sobriety and to continue my life in recovery,” he said in a statement. “Please enjoy making fun of me on the World Wide Web.”
A source told People that this visit was a maintenance one for Perry and there was “no relapse.”
Two years later, he set out to help others recover.
Armed with experience and knowledge provided by rehab, Perry wanted to make a difference in the lives of others like him. So he turned his Malibu, California home into The Perry House, a sober-living center for men. “When I die, I’d like Friends to be listed behind helping people,” he said at the time.
By 2015, he closed the house for financial reasons with plans to reopen in a different location, but that never happened. “I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my life and a lot of wonderful accolades,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “But the best thing about me is that if an alcoholic comes up to me and says, ‘Will you help me stop drinking?’ I will say, ‘Yes. I know how to do that.’”
Matthew Perry in 2015.
In 2016, he admitted to “not remembering” at least three seasons of Friends.
“I don’t remember three years of it,” he told BBC Radio 2. “So none of those … Somewhere between Season 3 and 6 … I was a little out of it.”
That same year, rumors surfaced that he was “struggling” while working on a play in London after pictures of him smoking a cigarette and “talking to himself” circulated online.
Perry underwent gastrointestinal surgery in 2018.
The operation was to repair a gastrointestinal perforation, which is the loss of continuity in a bowel wall caused by inflammation. He never publicly stated that it was alcohol-related, but one 2017 study published by Alcohol Research Current Reviews found that “in large amounts,” alcohol “can overwhelm the gastrointestinal tract” with inflammation and “lead to damage both within the GI and in other organs.” After surgery, the Fools Rush In star spent three months recovering in the hospital.
The last 20 years haven’t been easy.
But that doesn’t make Perry any less excited to reunite with his former cast mates and best friends David Schwimmer (Ross), Jennifer Aniston (Rachel), Courteney Cox (Monica), Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe), and Matt Le Blanc (Joey). “We’re back!” he wrote on Instagram on May 19, sharing the Friends reunion trailer. “I’m not crying, you’re crying.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s free 24/7 hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
Kayla Blanton is a freelance writer who reports on all things health and nutrition for Men’s Health, Women’s Health, and Prevention. Her hobbies include perpetual coffee sipping and pretending to be a Chopped contestant while cooking.