When young Matthew Perry had ‘the best experience of my life’ in Chicago

Chicago
By Chicago 2 Min Read

Matthew Perry grew up in Canada, made his name on a sitcom set in New York and lived and died in Los Angeles. But it was in Chicago where the actor had what he called “the best experience of my life.”

In 1986, he was a little-known TV supporting actor when he was cast in his first film, “A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon.” Based on a book by William Richert, who wrote and directed the movie, it was set in 1960s Chicago and starred River Phoenix as the title character, with Perry as his best friend.

“I had never been so excited in my life,” Perry wrote in “Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing,” his 2022 memoir. “It was in Chicago, and on this movie, and with River Phoenix, that I fell deeply in love with acting — and the cherry on top of this deeply magical time was that River and I became firm friends. He and I drank beer and shot pool on North Rush Street.”

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  • Matthew Perry, ‘Friends’ star, dies at 54

The movie came out in 1988 and flopped. Phoenix would die of an overdose five years later, a devastating blow for Perry. But his memories of his movie work in Chicago were ultimately happy.

“When it came to the last day of shooting,” he wrote, “I sat on my bed in my [Tremont Hotel] room and cried. I sobbed and sobbed because I knew even then I would never again have an experience like that — my first movie, far from home, free to flirt and drink and hang out with a brilliant young man like River Phoenix.”

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