\"I desperately desperately needed the money,\" said Matthew Perry in 1997. He was talking about the reason he had taken the $10,000-an-episode role of neurotic Manhattanite Chandler Bing three years previously in the sitcom Friends. You can bet he isn't short on cash now. Each castmember earned a cool million bucks every time another episode of the hit TV show was shot.
Born in Williamstown, Massachusetts, on August 19, 1969, Matthew L Perry moved to the Canadian city of Ottawa with his mother before his first birthday and shortly after his parents divorced. Unlike many who go on to be famous actors, Matthew had no dream of treading the boards, but set his sights instead at the tennis court. Dedicating himself to the game, by the time he was a teenager, he had become the city's Number Two junior player.
Aged 15, Matthew moved to LA to be with his father John Bennett Perry, a successful actor who played the rugged sailor in Old Spice commercials. Tennis fell by the wayside after he realised he'd never be the next Jimmy Connors, and the youngster refocused his aspirations on his father's profession. \"I thought, 'We've got a problem here. He's good. There's another generation shot to hell!',\" Perry senior later told a reporter, remembering his son's first performance at school.
Graduating from high school with mediocre grades, Matthew was determined to become an actor, although he reassured his father that should he still be out of work in a year's time, he would go to college. But the future Chandler Bing lucked out, getting cast in several TV sitcoms. The luck, however, didn't last long enough for Matthew to become a household name, as three of the sitcoms were cancelled after 13 weeks.
Then came Friends. While helping a couple of friends prepare their auditions for the series, Matthew spotted an opportunity. \"The part of Chandler leapt off the page, shook my hand, and said: 'This is you, man!',\" he later told a journalist. His final audition took place on a Friday afternoon, and the following Monday he started work on the set.
Overnight, Matthew's life changed. The hottest TV show in the US, Friends enabled the actor to buy a house in the chic Hollywood Hills, play tennis with John McEnroe at celebrity charity events, and make the often tricky leap from small to big screen. As with some of his co-stars, the transition was not as smooth as the actor would have liked, however.
His first big screen lead was opposite Salma Hayek in the 1997 romantic comedy Fools Rush In, which also starred his father. It failed to set the box office on fire, however. Almost Heroes also bombed, but he later scored with The Whole Nine Yards. Matthew also worked on Servicing Sara opposite Liz Hurley, but filming was suspended when he checked into rehab in the first half of 2001 for treatment of an unspecified addiction. The film was eventually released to mixed reviews.
It was not the first time Matthew had run into trouble. In the mid-Nineties, the actor became addicted to the popular painkiller Vicodin, although he later successfully kicked the habit. Then last year, after rumours circulated that Matthew had an eating disorder after his weight yo-yoed, he admitted to suffering from pancreatitis, a painful illness that can be triggered by either alcohol abuse or prescription drugs. \"In my case, it was hard living and drinking hard and eating poorly,\" he admitted to an American magazine.
Although his Friends character Chandler married Monica, Matthew Perry is still single. High-profile relationships with Julia Roberts and Yasmine Bleeth fizzled out and he is currently dating fashion student Rachel Dunn.