Matthew Perry

Known forever as the loveable Chandler in the hit US show 'Friends', Matthew Perry is an actor with a gift for comedic timing. Whether he will shake off the memory of the character that bought him such fame (and wealth) is yet to be seen but one thing's for sure – his efforts as a director, and theatre star since Central Perk closed its doors, prove he's not ready to wave goodbye to Hollywood just yet.

Born in America, Matthew Perry was raised in Canada, where his mother worked as a press secretary to the then Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau. At school it soon became clear that he had a natural talent for tennis and had high hopes of pursuing a professional career as an athlete. But after losing an important tournament in 1984 his dreams turned sour and he decided to turn his back on tennis for good.

The same year he moved to Los Angeles to live with his father, an actor, and, although still interested in tennis, he joined the high school drama club. Just one week after college graduation, he was offered the lead in a Fox sitcom called 'Second Chance' which was later cancelled. Putting faith in Perry's abilities, Fox conjured up another sitcom, 'Boys Will Be Boys', around the would-be star, but this also failed.

Perry then began to appear as a guest on a series of TV programmes, ranging from Michael Landon's 'Highway to Heaven', to Aaron Spelling's 'Beverly Hills 90210'.

His big break was to come when he was 'discovered' in true Hollywood fashion, while skipping university classes and hanging out in a restaurant. His waitress delivered the sixteen-year-old a napkin with the telephone number of director William Richert, who wanted to audition him for a movie. Though sceptical, Perry obligingly called Richert and later accepted a small part, opposite River Phoenix, in 'A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon' (1988).

In 1993, he tapped into his savings and began writing his own TV comedy and one year later sold the pilot to Universal Television. Titled 'Maxwell's House', Perry's programme was based on group of six caffeine-charged attractive twenty-somethings, who moaned about their jobs, relationships, and getting old. Sounds familiar? NBC thought so too, when Perry and Universal pitched them the show. The network declined the pilot because it was already developing a similar sitcom, called 'Friends'.

Although they didn't want his programme, NBC and the producers of 'Friends' did want Perry, and they cast him as Chandler. 'Friends' debuted to immediate success in 1994, and its six co-stars shot to international stardom.

Like the other cast members, Perry has capitalised on his success and attempted to move into the world of the big screen, but after starring in several films including 'Fools Rush In' (1996) with Salma Hayek and 'The Whole Nine yards' (2000) alongside Bruce Willis, he's yet to achieve acclaim away from the shadow of Chandler.

And his success has not been without strife. During his time working on 'Friends', Perry became reliant on alcohol to fuel him for the day and following a jetski accident in 1997 he became addicted to the prescription drug, Vicodin, which led to a spell in rehab. In 2000 he was taken to hospital suffering from pancreatitis, which was onset because of his addictions. 'Friends' fans will have noted that Perry's weight fluctuated dramatically during the years the series was filmed – most notably in the seventh series where he had lost 20 pounds following his hospitalisation. He has been in and out of rehabilitation centres ever since and was lucky that the 'Friends' filming schedule was often altered so that his scenes were shot last.

The media and Hollywood bigwigs haven't been deterred though and Perry also branched out during his time on the number one sitcom to take roles in other hit US series, 'Ally McBeal' in 2002 and 'The West Wing' in 2003.

After 'Friends' finally wrapped up in 2004, ten years after it first aired, Perry made his directing debut in an episode of the hit American comedy 'Scrubs', in which he also guest starred as a character who has to donate his kidney to his father, played by Perry's real father, John.

Having already worked on 'The West Wing' to critical applause, its creator Aaron Sorkin approached Perry with his script for 'Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip' in 2006, an insider look at a 'Saturday Night Live'-type sketch show. He jumped at the chance to return to an ensemble cast again and the series ran for a year until 2007, with the buzz and overall success largely attributed to Perry’s return to regular series work.

Meanwhile, Perry earned additional critical kudos for his performance in 'The Ron Clark Story' (2006). The TNT movie was based on a true story about a school teacher who relocated from the Deep South to the tough inner city New York. He received Golden Globe and Emmy award nominations for his dues.

With the directing and acting door still firmly wedged open for him, who knows what the future holds for Perry but it's unlikely he'll bow out of the limelight for many years to come.