Julia Roberts has finally been doing some TV of late, getting raves for Homecoming and this year’s Nixon saga Gaslit. But for ages she didn’t do it, at least not after becoming a star. (She’s one of a whole slew of familiar faces who guested on Miami Vice in the ‘80s.) It took a lot to entice her to the small screen, as Matthew Perry discovered a quarter century ago when he wanted her to play his love interest on a star-studded double episode of Friends.
Perry has a new memoir, Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing, in which he details both his long stint on one of the most enduring sitcoms of the ‘90s and his terrifying struggles with drug addiction, which he says he just barely survived. On a much, much more lighthearted note, there was that time he helped get the star of Pretty Woman to appear the 1996 episode “The One After the Superbowl, Part 2.”
“Julia had been offered the post-Super Bowl episode in season 2 and she would only do the show if she could be in my story line,” Perry wrote, in an excerpt published by The Times U.K. (as caught by Entertainment Weekly). “Let me say that again — she would only do the show if she could be in my story line. (Was I having a good year or what?) But first, I had to woo her.”
At first, Perry tried a more traditional route: He sent her roses. But she demanded something else, something more specific, something more difficult: She wanted him to explain quantum physics to her. So he did what we all do when Julia Roberts asks us to explain quantum physics: He hit the books.
The following day, I sent her a paper all about wave-particle duality and the uncertainty principle and entanglement, and only some of it was metaphorical,” Perry wrote. “Not only did Julia agree to do the show, but she also sent me a gift: bagels — lots and lots of bagels. Sure, why not? It was Julia f*cking Roberts.”
They quickly developed a fast friendship — partly via fax, this being 1996 — and soon enough, she was playing Chandler Bing’s former classmate, whom he humiliated as a child. They reunite and seem to hit it off, or at least Chandler thinks they did…
The onscreen romance led to an off-screen one as well, although Perry wound up being the one to call it off, perhaps prematurely.
“Dating Julia Roberts had been too much for me,” Perry wrote. “I had been constantly certain that she was going to break up with me. Why would she not? I was not enough; I could never be enough; I was broken, bent, unloveable. So instead of facing the inevitable agony of losing her, I broke up with the beautiful and brilliant Julia Roberts. She might have considered herself slumming it with a TV guy, and TV guy was now breaking up with her. I can’t begin to describe the look of confusion on her face.”
But at least they’ll always have his quantum physics paper. And some faxes.