Matthew Perry was set to make an appearance opposite Meryl Streep in Don’t Look Up but had to pull out of the film following a medical scare while at a treatment center in Switzerland amid his decades-long 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, securing the part in Adam McKay’s political satire would have been the “biggest movie I’d gotten ever,” Perry writes in his upcoming memoir, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, out November 1.
His character was set to be a Republican journalist who had three scenes with Oscar-winning Streep. Flying out to Boston, where the movie was primarily filmed from Nov. 2020 to Feb. 2021, McKay loved 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 crippling alcohol and opioid addiction, which his book traces back to his first drink at age 14 and his first Vicodin after sustaining an injury while filming Fools Rush In. Perry estimates he spent up to $9 million on rehab and sobriety efforts over the years. Even while shooting a group scene with Jonah Hill for Don’t Look Up, he writes that he was on 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 was insisting to his doctors that he had severe stomach pain so they’d prescribe him drugs. “In fact, I was OK,” he writes. “It still felt like I was constantly doing a sit-up — so it was very uncomfortable — but it wasn’t pain.”
Doctors at the rehab center had been prescribing Perry hydrocodone, but to help with his pain further, they decided to “put some kind of weird medical device in my back,” which would require surgery.
The night before the operation, Perry writes that he stayed up all night taking hydrocodone. In the operating room, he was administered propofol, which is regularly used for anesthesia. But the drug stopped Perry’s heart.
“I was given the shot at 11:00 a.m.,” he writes. “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,” he adds.
Perry writes he was in too much pain to continue with Don’t Look Up and had to pull out of the film. Calling the decision “heartbreaking,” Perry never got to film with Streep — and ultimately, the one scene Perry did manage to film didn’t make the movie’s final cut.