Matthew Perry was cast in Don’t Look Up, then his heart stopped

Matthew Perry

Matthew Perry
Photo: Theo Wargo (Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

In Friends star Matthew Perry’s new memoir, ‌Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thinghe’s revealing the depths to which substance abuse and addiction endangered his life and damaged his career. Those problems continued throughout 2020 when he was set to appear in the “biggest movie I’d gotten ever,” Adam McKay’s star-studded comedy Don’t Look Up. Unfortunately, Perry never got the opportunity to shoot his scenes because his heart had stopped for five minutes.

The actor was to play a Republican journalist for three scenes in McKay’s comedy, which would have Perry opposite Meryl Streep, Perry flew to Boston to film. The production was filmed there from November 2020 to February 2021.

Perry had long dealt with substance abuse, having started drinking at age 14. But an injury on the set of Fools Rush Ina romantic comedy he starred in with Salma Hayek, led him to opioid addiction. Over the years, Perry says that he spent upwards of $9 million on rehab and sobriety efforts.

Around the time he started working on Don’t Look Up, he was on 1,800 milligrams of hydrocodone, a pain medication prescribed to him by a rehab facility in Switzerland. While there, he told doctors that he suffered from severe stomach pains. “In fact, I was OK,” Perry writes. “It still felt like I was constantly doing a sit-up — so it was very uncomfortable — but it wasn’t pain.” He received the hydrocodone, but doctors wanted to do surgery to “put some kind of weird medical device in my back.”

The night before his surgery, he stayed up all night downing hydrocodone. So when Perry was under surgery, doctors administered propofol, an anesthesia that ended up stopping Perry’s heart for five minutes. Perry writes:

I was given the shot at 11:00 am I woke up eleven hours later in a different hospital. Apparently, the propofol had stopped my heart. For five minutes. It wasn’t a heart attack — I didn’t flatline — but nothing had been beating. I was told that some beefy Swiss guy really didn’t want the guy from Friends dying on his table and did CPR on me for the full five minutes, beating and pounding my chest. If I hadn’t been on Friends, would he have stopped at three minutes? Did Friends save my life again?

He may have saved my life, but he also broke eight of my ribs.

The one scene Perry filmed for Don’t Look Up ended up on the cutting room floor.

With the memoir’s approaching release, Perry’s been sharing more stories like these, hoping it will inspire others to seek help. Last week, he revealed that at one point, his colon burst, and he had a 2% chance of living.

“The doctors told my family that I had a 2% chance to live,” he said. After his colon burst from opioid abuse, he spent two weeks in a coma and five months in the hospital. “I was put on a thing called an ECMO machine, which does all the breathing for your heart and your lungs. And that’s called a Hail Mary. No one survives that.”

Friends, Lovers, And The Big Terrible Thing will be available in bookstores on November 1.

[via Rolling Stone]

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