Matthew Perry was to make an appearance opposite Meryl Streep in Don’t look up but had to withdraw from the film following a medical scare while in a treatment center in Switzerland in his mid-decades addiction battle. The actor’s heart stopped for five minutes and doctors broke eight of his ribs trying to resuscitate him.
Despite his success as a television actor, getting the role in Adam McKay’s political satire would have been the “greatest movie I ever had,” Perry wrote in his forthcoming memoir, Friends, lovers and the terrible big thingreleased on November 1.
His character was to be a Republican reporter who had three scenes with Oscar winner Streep. Fly to Boston, where the film has been mostly shot since Nov. 2020 to Feb. 2021McKay liked one of Perry’s on-the-fly pitches so much that it ended up being used in a group scene.
But Perry was in the midst of a crippling addiction to alcohol and opioids, which his book traces to his first drink at age 14 and his first Vicodin after sustaining an injury while filming Fools Rush In. Perry estimates he’s spent up to $9 million on rehab and sobriety efforts over the years. Even shooting a group scene with Jonah Hill for don’t look up, he writes that he was taking 1,800 milligrams of hydrocodone.
Around this time, Perry says he went to a luxury rehab in Switzerland, where he was put up in a villa overlooking Lake Geneva and had his own butler and chef. Unable to completely give up his addiction, Perry says he insisted his doctors that he was suffering from severe stomach pains to prescribe him medication. “Actually, I was fine,” he wrote. “I still felt like I was constantly doing sit-ups – so it was very uncomfortable – but it wasn’t painful.”
Doctors at the rehab center had prescribed Perry hydrocodone, but to further ease his pain they decided to “put some kind of weird medical device in my back”, which would require surgery.
The day before the operation, Perry writes that he stayed up all night taking hydrocodone. In the operating room, she was given propofol, which is regularly used for anesthesia. But the drugs stopped Perry’s heart.
“I was kicked at 11:00 a.m.,” he wrote. “I woke up eleven hours later in another hospital. Apparently the propofol had stopped my heart. For five minutes. It wasn’t a heart attack – I wasn’t flat – but nothing was beating. I was told that a beefy Swiss really didn’t want the guy from Friends dying on his table and did CPR on me for the full five minutes, punching me and bumping 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 ribs,” he adds.
Perry writes that he was in too much pain to continue Don’t look up and had to withdraw from the film. Calling the decision “heartbreaking,” Perry was never able to film with Streep – and ultimately, the one scene Perry managed to film didn’t make the final cut of the film.