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Faxing (and flirting) with Julia Roberts

More than just Friends? Perry and Roberts on the sitcom’s set in 1996. Liason

Everyone on Friends knew it was going to be a massive hit, says Matthew Perry in an extract from his new memoir in The Times. The summer before the first season aired in 1994, the director, Jimmy Burrows, flew me and the others to Las Vegas and gave us $100 each. “Your lives are going to utterly change,” Jimmy said, “so do some things in public now because once you’re as famous as you’re about to be, you’ll never be able to do them again.” We did exactly that: “got drunk and gambled and wandered through the casinos, just six close strangers on a weekend trip, unknown to anyone”.

Fame had its advantages, of course. At the height of the show’s success, I briefly dated Julia Roberts, then the most famous actress in the world. The courtship was bizarre. Because she was filming in France, the whole thing was done by “daily faxes”. Hundreds of them. Sometimes, I would cut short a conversation at a party so I could “race home and see if a new fax had arrived”. Eventually, early one morning, Julia’s tone “veered romantic”. This was it. I called over a friend, who helped me compose and send a suitable reply. “Then we stood there by the fax machine looking at each other.” After 10 minutes, it whirred into life. The fax consisted of Julia’s phone number and two words: “Call me.”

Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing is published on Tuesday