'Fatigued' Matthew Perry cut short his pickleball game…

‘Fatigued’ Matthew Perry cut short his pickleball game… hours later came the panicked phonecall to his family: TOM LEONARD on the tragic Friends star’s final hours

Friends star Matthew Perry may have slipped back into drug abuse and had been unusually tired in the final days of his life, it was claimed last night.

The troubled actor died aged 54 in an apparent drowning accident in the hot tub in the garden of his Los Angeles home on Saturday night.

As police sources said they had found numerous prescription painkillers and anti-anxiety pills in his house, a close friend revealed there had been worrying signs of ‘fatigue’ in the days leading up to his death.

Perry was obsessed with playing pickleball – a game similar to tennis and table tennis – but is said to have gone home early from a game at a country club near his home complaining of tiredness just a few hours before he was discovered.

Although Perry usually played the game twice a day, on Saturday he’d only lasted an hour on the court before going home, his regular partner told TV presenter Billy Bush.

Perry posted a picture of himself in some kind of pool or jacuzzi on October 23 with the caption ‘Oh, so warm water swirling around makes you feel good? I’m Mattman.’

Police sources said they had found numerous prescription painkillers and anti-anxiety pills in his house

Perry’s stepfather Keith Morrison crosses the police tape down the street from the late actor’s house in Pacific Palisades Saturday night

Perry playing Pickleball in Santa Monica on October 22 

‘[Pickleball] regulated his days,’ said Bush. ‘I spoke to the woman he played with this morning and every morning. She is in shock, adored Matt… she said he had been fatigued today and over the past week. A little more than usual.’

Friends insist Perry had been on good form in recent weeks and believed he was managing to remain sober.

However, while police said they found no illegal drugs at his house, sources told website TMZ that they discovered a cache of prescription drugs, including anti-depressants, anti-anxiety drugs and a medication for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, breathing-related problems such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Perry had been a smoker.

Sources close to Lisa Kudrow, his Friends co-star, said she was ‘baffled’ by his death after he’d finally found ‘peace with himself’. She pledged she would attend his funeral, and might even adopt his beloved dog Alfred.

‘He was enjoying life,’ one source close told DailyMail.com. ‘He was closer than ever to his folks and actively engaged in his sobriety. She is baffled on what caused his death.’

One possibility that is reportedly worrying the actress and other friends of Perry is that he may have taken a drug that reacted badly with the heat of the hot tub.

‘Although no one wants to believe it was medication – prescribed or not – of course that is a thought in their minds,’ the source added.

‘They are thinking he must have taken something that did not mix with the warm water.’

Only a toxicology report, which could take months, will determine the exact role that his addictions played in his death and whether, as friends fear, he might have fallen off the wagon.

Police sources said they had found numerous prescription painkillers and anti-anxiety pills in Friends star Matthew Perry’s home

One of the last pictures of Perry stepping out with his friend for dinner hamburger joint Apple Pan in Los Angeles

Perry (pictured circa 1987 in New York) was found unresponsive in his hot tub at his £5.6million mansion in the smart Pacific Palisades neighbourhood of Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon

Perry as Chandler in series 6 of Friends ‘The One on the Last Night’

Perry was found unresponsive in his hot tub at his £5.6million mansion in the smart Pacific Palisades neighbourhood of Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon.

After playing pickleball, he reportedly asked his assistant to collect a new iPhone and prescription glasses for him. Two hours later, the assistant returned to his house and, finding him unresponsive in his hot tub, called the emergency services and then his mother and a sibling. Police said they didn’t suspect foul play but didn’t provide a cause of death.

His parents, Suzanne Morrison and actor John Bennett Perry, and his stepfather – TV crime journalist Keith Morrison – arrived at the house that evening looking ashen-faced.

In a brief statement, the family said: ‘We are heartbroken by the tragic loss of our beloved son and brother. Matthew brought so much joy to the world, both as an actor and a friend.

‘You all meant so much to him and we appreciate the tremendous outpouring of love.’

Tributes also came from the creators of Friends, who in a touching reference to the show’s iconic episode titles, called the day ‘The One Where Our Hearts Are Broken’.

The sitcom’s co-creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane, along with executive producer Kevin Bright, said they were ‘shocked and deeply, deeply saddened’ by Perry’s death.

They added: ‘It still seems impossible. All we can say is that we feel blessed to have had him as part of our lives. He was a brilliant talent.’

Gwyneth Paltrow also revealed the pair had shared a kiss ‘in a field of long grass’ the summer before the Friends pilot aired in 1993 – and Perry’s life changed forever.

The Sliding Doors star said: ‘He was so funny and so sweet and so much fun to be with. We drove out to swim in creeks, had beers in the local college bar, kissed in a field of long grass.

‘It was a magical summer. He was nervous, hoping his big break was just around the corner. It was.’

Neighbours described Perry as friendly and approachable. He had that reputation in Hollywood, an actor who – by his own admission – was remarkably similar to Chandler, the sarcastic but self-effacing character he played in Friends.

However, he freely admitted he’d long kept his true self tightly bottled up, fearing it would repel others. Fans of Friends never knew until years later that the spiky Chandler they watched and loved each week was often turning up to record the show heavily hungover (in 2016 he admitted he actually didn’t remember filming three seasons of the show because he was a ‘little out of it at the time’).

Perry’s mother Suzanne and her husband Keith Morrison seen leaving his home in Pacific Palisades following his tragic death

He also said he had therapy twice a week for 30 years and attended 6,000 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Though none of it did much good, as he ignored his doctors and regarded detox as ‘hell’.

He was aware of his self-destructive reputation, writing in his autobiography last year: ‘It is very odd to live in a world where if you died, it would shock people but surprise no one.’

In his last interview in April when he spoke at an LA book festival, he was asked how he wished to be remembered. He didn’t mention Friends but instead replied: ‘As a guy who lived life, loved well, lived well, and helped people. That running into me was a good thing, and not something bad.’

He’d been similarly upbeat in 2022 when he joked to People magazine: ‘I’m pretty healthy now. I’ve got to not go to the gym much more, because I don’t want to only be able to play superheroes.’ He refused to say how long he had been sober but said he had waited to publish his book until ‘I was safe from the dark side of everything again’. He added: ‘I had to wait until I was pretty safely sober – and away from the active disease of alcoholism and addiction – to write it all down.’

But how safe was he from the dark side? Just as the smile Perry flashed for the cameras at his rare public appearances concealed the fact those brilliantly white teeth were false (as the real ones had fallen out biting into a slice of toast), it seemed he may have been a man still battling his demons.

Other than his pickleball commitments, his public outings had been rare in recent months. The Saturday before his death he was snapped out with a male friend at a burger joint, scruffily dressed in tracksuit trousers, laceless trainers and oversized T-shirt.

His social media postings were erratic. In his last post to Instagram earlier this week, the star shared images of himself in his pool, saying: ‘Oh, so warm water swirling around makes you feel good? I’m Mattman.’

He appeared happier two weeks ago when he posted a picture of himself with his father, fellow actor John Bennett Perry, 82.

‘Here is me, and my father John, both holding a beverage,’ he wrote on Instagram, alongside the photo of the two smiling at the camera as they clutched cups of what looks like Coca-Cola.

Lisa Kudrow, who played Phoebe in Friends, said last year that Perry’s addiction was ‘a hideous disease, and he has a tough version of it’. The actress added: ‘What’s not changing is his will to keep going, keep fighting and keep living.’

It’s now left to the coroner’s department to reveal how successful Matthew Perry was in fighting that battle to the end.

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