Former Friends star Matthew Perry is gearing up for the release of his new memoir Friends, Lovers, And The Big Terrible Thing next month, an apparently harrowing and honest look at Perry’s life, career, and his long history with, and battles against, addiction. And also, apparently, his intense loathing of Keanu Reeves.
This is per one of several excerpts that have been floating around from the book in the weeks leading up to its November 1 publication, this one highlighted by Variety. In it, Perry is mourning his former A Night In The Life Of Jimmy Reardon co-star, River Phoenix, writing that, “The list of geniuses who were ahead of their time is too long to detail here—suffice to say, near the top of any such list should be…River Phoenix.” All well and good, until Perry goes on, bizarrely, to detail at least one person he wishes had died instead of Phoenix, who died of a drug overdose in 1993.
“River was a beautiful man, inside and out,” Perry writes. “Too beautiful for this world, it turned out. It always seems to be the really talented guys who go down. Why is it that the original thinkers like River Phoenix and Heath Ledger die, but Keanu Reeves still walks among us?” Later in the book, Perry repeats the line, describe his misery at the death of his friend, Saturday Night Live star Chris Farley: “I punched a hole through Jennifer Aniston’s dressing room wall when I found out. Keanu Reeves walks among us.”
Now, in an effort to extend the maximum amount of the benefit of the doubt possible here to Perry, we do feel like it’s worth noting that there was a long period, pre- his current career renaissance, when Reeves’ name was a shorthand for a certain kind of easy-going doofishness—powered in part by early roles like Bill And Ted, and ignoring the fact that Reeves is extremely funny in those movies because he’s so familiar with the affable slacker type he’s playing. “Keanu Reeves seems like a dope” was not necessarily a controversial stance to take in, say, 1998, even if it was, ultimately, an unfair one.
Even so: There’s something extremely crass about citing Reeves—who was both Phoenix’s friend, and his My Own Private Idaho co-star—as part of some misguided effort to elevate the late actor. The most generous interpretation suggests that Perry is wildly out of step with his reference pool, and modern perceptions of Reeves’ performances and career; just as easy, though, to read the whole thing as needlessly cruel. Either way, it’s shocking that all of Perry’s editors at Macmillan signed off on it for release.