Doug Ross, known for his role on TV’s ER, found success in the film industry. Similarly, David Addison, the witty and bald private detective from TV’s Moonlighting, also made the transition to movies. Will Smith, a native of West Philadelphia and star of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, also found success in the film industry.
Why wasn’t Chandler Bing considered? Could Matthew Perry, a talented actor whose beloved TV persona became the ultimate friend and the perfect example of a good sense of humor on dating apps, have joined the ranks of George Clooney, Bruce Willis, and Will Smith in film? Alternatively, as a skilled writer, could Perry have followed in the footsteps of Happy Days’ Richie Cunningham – director Ron Howard – and pursued a career as a filmmaker?
Unfortunately, he was able to and did. Perry created a number of captivating independent films, accomplished great work on television dramas written by Aaron Sorkin, and even wrote a successful play for both London’s West End and Broadway. However, he was unable to replicate his immense television success and iconic small-screen status in the film industry – utilizing his career accomplishments to invest in Hollywood did not come to fruition.
If he had fully recovered from his addiction problems, or if they had never existed in an alternate reality, it’s possible that things would have been different. However, speculating about this is pointless as his struggles were a part of his overall personality. These issues would have made it challenging to insure Perry for major studio projects. In his post-Friends career, he focused more on finding scripts he enjoyed and attaching himself to them in order to secure independent funding. However, even this reasoning is not completely valid. We can see this with Robert Downey Jr, who has a well-known history of drug use but still became a successful actor in the corporate studio world, particularly as a superhero.
It is possible that Perry could have had a similar career to Jesse Eisenberg’s if he had been a little luckier. He could have portrayed characters like Mark Zuckerberg and Lex Luthor, as well as writing clever pieces for publications like the New Yorker and McSweeney’s.
It has something to do with the addictive nature of TV fame, the dopamine rush of international small-screen brand identity, combined with the security of a regular big-paying gig in your 20s delivering the kind of money undreamt of by all but the biggest Hollywood A-listers. And Perry came of age at a time when television itself was assuming a new prestige and there wasn’t the same need to prove yourself outside. Certainly no one now would dream of patronising TV or Perry’s achievement on it.
The cast of Friends were exceptional in their delivery of jokes, physical comedy, and garnering laughter from the live studio audience (unlike the quiet atmosphere of a film studio, where an actor may catch a glimpse of the director’s pensive and unsmiling expression in the light of the video playback).
Monica, Joey, Ross, Rachel, and Phoebe all had distinctive facial expressions, voices, and personalities that captivated the audience. However, Chandler Bing stood out even more because he was the designated funny one who was responsible for making both his friends and viewers laugh. Matthew Perry, who also helped write scripts for the show, was fully aware of his own comedic prowess in his ongoing role on television.
Movies are unique. According to legend, when Steven Spielberg first laid eyes on a young George Clooney, he foresaw a successful movie career for him – as long as he could reign in his habit of playfully shaking his head. And that’s exactly what Clooney did. Of course, it’s not quite that simple, as body language and mannerisms must be carefully controlled – which can be challenging if they have been integral to your success as an actor. As one matures into their 30s and 40s, like former Mouseketeer Ryan Gosling, a certain poise and centeredness must be cultivated in order to convincingly portray a variety of characters.
Perry created some enjoyable romantic comedies, including the charming mishap Three to Tango and the highly-regarded 17 Again, which holds a personal meaning for Perry. He portrays a disenchanted middle-aged man who is given a second chance at youth, played by Zac Efron.
Perry had the potential to excel as a versatile actor and writer in the film industry, but unfortunately, the strict adherence to genre, expectations, and intellectual property held him back. While Julia Louis-Dreyfus has successfully transitioned to character roles in films by directors like Nicole Holofcener, it is a missed opportunity for Perry. However, his memorable performances in Friends have solidified his place in the hall of fame of television. It is a loss for the world of cinema.