George Clooney's Friendship With Matthew Perry Dates Back Decades

Back in the '90s, actors George Clooney and Matthew Perry were achieving career success on "ER" and "Friends." Both shows were produced by Warner Brothers for NBC. They were also recorded next to each other on the same soundstage, putting the two actors in close proximity to one another. In 1995, Clooney even guest-starred on "Friends." 

However, Clooney's connection with Perry goes back about a decade earlier, to the mid-1980s. Clooney first got to know Perry when he was 16. Perry's extraordinary talent for comedy was evident to Clooney even then. "He was a great, funny, funny, funny kid," Clooney reminisced to Deadline. Over games of paddle tennis, Perry shared his future career aspirations with Clooney. Perry began acting as a kid, making his first TV appearance when he was 10 years old in an episode of "240-Robert." Guest appearances in single episodes of "Silver Spoons" and Charles in Charge" followed, leaving Perry hungry for a larger, recurring role. The aspiring actor told Clooney repeatedly about his desire to be on a sitcom, and how he believed that success would provide supreme happiness. 

Seven years later, 23-year-old Perry coveted fame so much that he prayed, "God, you can do anything you want to me just please make me famous," as he later recalled on "The Jennifer Hudson Show." Within three weeks, Perry had signed on to play Chandler in "Friends." However, while Perry was certain fame would guarantee him joy in life, his friend Clooney didn't have the same outlook.

Clooney saw firsthand that success didn't make Perry happy

Since George Clooney and Matthew Perry worked on the same soundstage, Clooney had the opportunity to watch Perry's "Friends" performances live. Even as Perry was delighting audiences as Chandler Bing, Clooney had the uncomfortable sense that something wasn't right with his friend. "We just knew that he wasn't happy," Clooney explained to Deadline in 2023. At the time, Clooney was unaware of Perry's struggles with alcohol and opioid addiction. During "Friends," Perry had a self-imposed rule that he wouldn't drink or do drug while he was at work. Withdrawal from these addictions sometimes left him feeling awful while he was acting. 

According to Perry, the elation of being famous only lasted eight months. "Then you realize that it doesn't accomplish anything, it's certainly not filling any holes in your life," he explained to The New York Times in 2002. Prior to his desire for acting success, Perry was equally driven as a junior tennis player, spending ten hours each day perfecting his skills. ”I needed to succeed at whatever I was doing so I could feel better about myself,” Perry added.

In contrast, before Clooney was a Hollywood icon, he experienced failures as an actor, including a dozen pilots that never got off the ground. With "ER," he recognized that there was an element of serendipity in the show's success. Clooney didn't take the resulting fame personally, instead choosing to simply enjoy the experience of being on the show.

Clooney's famous Aunt Rosemary demonstrated that fame isn't a panacea

One source of common ground between George Clooney and Matthew Perry is that they both had fathers with TV careers. John Bennett Perry is an actor known for his role in Old Spice commercials.  In addition, he also did a lot of single-episode guest appearances, as well as some longer roles on shows like "Falcon Crest."  In contrast, Nick Clooney, Clooney's father, had a couple of uncredited film roles in the late 1950s.  After an unsuccessful attempt to be cast in the starring role of "I Was a Teenage Werewolf," Nick altered his career plans and went on to have a longtime career on daytime TV and newscasts in Kentucky. 

However, in Clooney's case, it was his father's sister, singing legend Rosemary Clooney, whose experiences shaped his outlook on fame. After achieving extraordinary success, Rosemary's career tanked when musical tastes changed and rock music became popular. Like Perry, Rosemary also struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. Eventually, she returned to music and had a successful second act as a jazz vocalist. "Success and money and all those things, it doesn't just automatically bring you happiness," Clooney explained to Deadline. "You have to be happy with yourself and your life."

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).