An Incident On The Fools Rush In Set Changed Everything For Matthew Perry

Note: This article discusses addiction issues.

In the late 1990s, Matthew Perry was enjoying phenomenal career success. "Friends" was a few years into its epic decade-long run, and he was starring in the film "Fools Rush In." Even though he was a TV star, Perry was reportedly a little anxious about his performance as a leading actor in the film. To pass the time between breaks when he was needed on set, Perry would frequently play Wiffle ball, either with the movie's producer, Doug Draizin, or with local kids, who were elated to meet the "Friends" actor. 

In addition to playing Wiffle ball, Perry also experienced a much more difficult — and potentially dangerous — sport during "Fools Rush In." The actor went jet-skiing on Lake Mead, where he had an accident. Perry was given pills to treat the pain from his injuries, and it was a significant moment for the actor. "I couldn't believe how good I felt; I was in complete and pure euphoria," he wrote in his memoir "Friends, Lovers & The Big Terrible Thing" (via Us Weekly). "It was the greatest feeling I'd ever had. Nothing could ever go wrong."

The actor had already been struggling with alcohol addiction, and, after taking the painkillers, he dealt with addiction to the prescription pain medication. Perry later speculated that if he hadn't been introduced to the drug, 30 years of his life would have been dramatically different. This addiction escalated to Perry taking 55 pills daily, causing long-term consequences for the actor's health. 

Opioid addiction led to two near-death experiences for Perry

As Matthew Perry's body developed a tolerance for opioids, he feigned illnesses and injuries to get more pills. The actor visited as many as eight different doctors concurrently for prescriptions. Perry also helped himself to pills in bathrooms during real estate open houses. In 1997, he sought treatment for opioid addiction at a rehab facility. By 2002, he was taking methadone for opioid withdrawal symptoms. 

Addiction to pills resulted in substantial weight loss. Perry noted that he never watched "Friends" because of the heartbreak of knowing which substances he was struggling with in a given season. Addiction to opiates also caused cumulative damage to the actor's body and led to Perry almost dying in 2018. "I suffered from a situation that only a subset of the population gets," Perry observed in his memoir (via E! News). "Opiates cause constipation." It led to the actor experiencing a gastrointestinal perforation, requiring 15 surgeries, a colostomy bag, and a five-month hospital stay. When Perry was initially admitted, his survival odds were 2%.

Two years later, when Perry was a patient at a rehab facility in Switzerland, he obtained a prescription for the opioid hydrocodone. When the actor was subsequently administered propofol before a planned surgery, the interaction between drugs caused Perry's heart to stop beating. The actor's life was saved with continuous CPR. After five minutes, Perry's heartbeat resumed, although the chest compressions from CPR left him with eight broken ribs.

Fools Rush In has a special place in Matthew Perry's heart

Although Matthew Perry's accident while filming "Fools Rush In" precipitated later devastating impacts, the actor was able to separate it from the overall experience of working on the movie. Perry was proud of the film, and in answer to a question about his most beloved film role, he referenced "Fools Rush In" as "probably my best movie" (via X, formerly Twitter). 

Despite his worries about doing a good job, Perry discovered it was an opportunity to grow as an actor. "I was starting to come up with some fun strategies to tap into real feelings and to be more of a leading man than a funny sitcom actor," Perry wrote in his memoir. The actor also credited the film's director Andy Tennant for reassuring him that he didn't need to make people laugh nonstop.

"Fools Rush In" was inspired by the real-life experiences of the movie's producers, Doug Draizin and Anna Marie Davis, and Perry's character Alex was based on Draizin. To prepare for the role, Perry spent significant time getting to know Draizin and asking him questions. During the experience, Perry bonded with his costar Salma Hayek, and acted alongside his famous dad John Bennett Perry. The opportunity to collaborate with his father proved to be a healing one for Perry, as they played a father and son in the film.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).