Earlier this week, several excerpts from Perry’s forthcoming memoir— Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing — were released online. Outlets like Variety and the New York Post published sections where the Friends star appears to take aim at fellow actor Keanu Reeves.
In one excerpt, Perry reflects on the death of his former costar River Phoenix — who died in 1993 from a drug overdose — by asking why “talented,” “original thinkers” like Phoenix and Heath Ledger are no longer alive, but Reeves is.
“River was a beautiful man, inside and out — too beautiful for this world, it turned out. It always seems to be the really talented guys who go down,” Perry writes.
“Why is it that the original thinkers like River Phoenix and Heath Ledger die, but Keanu Reeves still walks among us? River was a better actor than me; I was funnier. But I certainly held my own in our scenes — no small feat, when I look back decades later,” he says.
If that line wasn’t strange enough, the 53-year-old goes on to reference the same sentiment later in the book — this time, mourning the death of comedian Chris Farley.
“His disease had progressed faster than mine had. (Plus, I had a healthy fear of the word ‘heroin,’ a fear we did not share.) I punched a hole through Jennifer Aniston’s dressing room wall when I found out. Keanu Reeves walks among us,” he writes again.
Perry’s intention behind the dig remains unclear; however, his comments sparked major backlash online, with hundreds of Twitter users coming to Reeves’s defense.
“matthew perry been on a hell of a media blitz lately to promote his book, and buddy he just shot down all momentum & goodwill by attacking keanu reeves: you don’t attack keanu,” one critic wrote. “nasty work, matthew.”
“this is such a fucked up thing to say,” added someone else, who highlighted that Perry’s words were particularly insensitive given that Reeves and Phoenix were close friends.
Several others noted that it seemed as if Perry had chosen Reeves’s name as an “easy punchline.”
Among the backlash, a number of public figures including Lynda Carter and Rachel Zegler showed their love for Reeves too, with the latter saying she’s “personally thrilled that keanu reeves walks among us.”
And as the criticism continued to build online, Perry issued an apology, admitting that he made a “mistake.”
“I'm actually a big fan of Keanu,” the actor told People in a statement on Wednesday. “I just chose a random name, my mistake. I apologize.”
He went on to say: “I should have used my own name instead.”
Aside from his comments about other actors, Perry’s memoir has been garnering plenty of attention for its candid revelations about his own decadeslong struggles with addiction.
Reflecting on his use of drugs and alcohol, Perry reveals that his addiction led to an array of medical complications, including a two-week period on life support, an exploded colon, and a total of 14 surgeries on his stomach.
In one excerpt obtained by the New York Times, Perry recalls being driven to a treatment facility after filming a beloved 2001 episode of Friends, in which his character, Chandler Bing, gets married.
“I married Monica and got driven back to the treatment center — at the height of my highest point in Friends, the highest point in my career, the iconic moment on the iconic show — in a pickup truck helmed by a sober technician,” Perry writes.
According to Perry, his famous Friends costars had confronted him about his drinking, with Jennifer Aniston telling him, “in a kind of weird but loving way,” that she and the rest of the cast could tell he was struggling.
In a recent interview with People, Perry described himself as “a pretty healthy guy” who’s “grateful to be alive.”