Matthew Perry has a new memoir out, called Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing. It’s a bracing account of his struggles with addiction, which very nearly cost him his life. It’s also caused a bit of inadvertent chaos. It also has some more lighthearted dirt about his career, such as how he coaxed Julia Roberts to guest star on Friends.
Speaking of guest stints, the book has another amusing bit about how they got another star to appear on the show. Bruce Willis spent a three-episode arc on the show, playing the father of a student David Schwimmer’s Ross was dating. Willis’ character even wound up hooking up with Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel. Willis won an Emmy for it — his second, after his starmaking stint on Moonlighting. But according to Perry, he only wound up doing it because he lost a bet.
Perry and Willis co-starred in the hit mob comedy The Whole Nine Yards, from the year 2000. The two hit it off, even though they were a touch different in some ways. “Bruce was a partier; I was an addict,” Perry writes. “Bruce has an on-off button. He can party like crazy, then get a script like ‘The Sixth Sense’ and stop the partying and nail the movie sober. He doesn’t have the gene — he’s not an addict.”
The two were able to keep it together and make a crowd-pleasing hit, despite Willis’ pessimism. “Bruce hadn’t been sure the film would work at all, and I’d bet him it would — if he lost, he had to do a guest spot on ‘Friends,’” he recalled. Alas, it was a hit and Willis fulfilled his end of the bargain, which worked out pretty well for him.
Like some of the more lighthearted stories in Perry’s memoir, this one’s tinged with melancholy. “If ‘The Whole Nine Yards’ was the start of my movie stardom, it’s fair to say that ‘The Whole Ten Yards’ was the end,” he wrote.
Perry also recalled spending time with Willis. “Sometimes, at the end of the night, when the sun was just about to come up and everyone else had gone, and the party was over, Bruce and I would just sit and talk,” he wrote. “That’s when I saw the real Bruce Willis — a good-hearted man, a caring man, selfless. A wonderful parent. And a wonderful actor. And most important, a good guy.
“And if he wanted me to be, I would be his friend for life,” added Perry. “But as is the way with so many of these things, our paths rarely crossed after that.”