Emmanuel Itier: Would you like to be 17 again?
Matthew Perry: Is that the first question? Would I like to be 17 again? No...however, if I could be 17 -- like this guy in the movie -- and know what I know now, then that would be nice. Then I could take advantage of it. But I wouldn’t to go back and be 17 and not know what I know now.
EI: Were you a cool 17-year-old?
MP: No, I was the coolest of the non-cool kids in school. There were the popular guys and then the dorky geeks, and I was probably the coolest of the dorky geeks.
EI: Why did you decide to do this movie?
MP: It’s funny -- I read the script, but I didn’t know who Zac Efron was.
EI: How long ago did you read it?
MP: About a year-and-a-half ago. He was still a big deal; I just had no idea who he was. I didn’t know anything about High School Musical and I still haven’t seen it.
EI: You’re missing out.
MP: Yeah, I’ve got my whole afternoon planned. I am going to watch all three movies back-to-back. I read the script and I really liked it. I felt it was really moving. The part I got to play was a sort of dissatisfied 37-year-old guy who is miserable and then gets to go on this journey, and that was moving to me. Then I found out that Zac Efron was kind of a big deal.
EI: Does he remind you of your younger self?
MP: No, not at all...but quite flattering, actually. I would go to the set and say, “Take a good look, pal. This is what it’s going to become.”
EI: What were your impressions of working on the set with Zac?
MP: I was very surprised at how he was such a nice guy. We are playing the same role in this. He would sometimes ask me how I would say things. He worked really hard at mimicking me. I thought that was really nice of him to do. It is his movie -- it could have gone the other way. He could have said, “You imitate me.” I would have been, “Oh okay, let me go and watch all of your movies and try to do that!”
EI: Did he hang around you a lot then?
MP: Yeah, or he would call me from time to time. I was at a Christmas party and he rang and he asked, “How would you say this line?” So I walked outside and said, “I think I would say it this way…” Months later, I would watch him and I could see he did a good job.
EI: Was it weird to watch him imitate you?
MP: Yeah, that was a really interesting part of it. The rehearsal part was interesting. He’s a real actor, at the end of the day.
EI: As someone who’s been in the industry for a while, did you give him any advice?
MP: He didn’t need much -- he’s a really good guy. I did set him up with some video games that he wasn’t familiar with yet. I would walk into his trailer and go, “Why don’t you try this? It’s a little bit more thought-provoking than the video game you’re playing.”
EI: Are you a big kid at heart? Do you play Guitar Hero -- the Wii game?
MP: All that stuff, yes. I have the Wii games at home. I am not a particular fan of the Guitar Hero game, but I have almost all the other games. I play tennis with the Wii so much that I had to go to a doctor because I messed up my hands playing with the Wii too much.
EI: Are you being funny?
MP: No, I had to go to a doctor because I was playing the video game too often. It was pretty severe pain. It’s like tennis-elbow but not -- its video game-hand. Trigger-finger -- that’s what they call it. I’m very proud of my sports injury.
EI: Who were your biggest influences growing up?
MP: I always watched Michael Keaton. I thought he was a big deal growing up. I was ten years old when I saw The Night Shift, and that taught me how to speak. He was a big influence. Chevy Chase [was an] early one, and then sports-wise, Jimmy Connors.
EI: Have you met these people?
MP: Yeah, I’ve met some of them. I met Jimmy Connors when I was a kid, and I’ve met Michael, Tom Hanks and all the people who were doing the work that I was aspiring to do.
EI: If you were to be 17 again with this knowledge, what would you do differently?
MP: Man, that’s a good question. I would certainly be smarter than I was back then. I don’t know specifically what I would do. I think I would just try to enjoy life more than I did back then -- be nicer to people.
EI: School, in today’s world, looks pretty horrifying.
MP: I wouldn’t want to be in school now with the texting, and you talk behind people’s backs with your phones -- all of that nightmarish stuff. It’s hard enough in the adult world with all that technology.
EI: What kind of message do you want to give to the audience of this film?
MP: The message that I kept getting from this was just to enjoy your life. My character has been unhappy for 20 years and he doesn’t appreciate anything. He has the chance to go back to life as a teenager and be the same age as his kids, and he gets to realize that his life was okay and that he should be grateful. As corny as it sounds, the message is to appreciate what you have as opposed to getting lost in what you don’t have or what you think you want.
EI: Did you know, back then at 17, what you wanted to do with your life? Did you have a plan?
MP: By 17, I had already figured out I was not going to be a tennis player. I learned that when I was 15. I had decided I wanted to be an actor by then. I was fortunate enough to start that career going pretty soon. I couldn’t be a lawyer or anything because my grades were low.
EI: Why did you want to become an actor?
MP: Well, my father is an actor -- John Perry. I wanted to follow in his footsteps. Also, that was one of the courses in school that I did the best at -- theatre and drama class. I was into that.
EI: Is there a book you’ve read that has changed your life or way of thinking?
MP: I loved the book The Sun Also Rises, and I also love The Velveteen Rabbit -- so somewhere in the middle of Hemingway and a story about a little bunny.
EI: What is happening with your new TV show?
MP: The show is called The End of Steve and it’s a show for Showtime -- we just shot it. I wrote it with a partner. I came up with the idea for it myself, which is the first time I’ve ever done that.
EI: How proud are you of that?
MP: That was really fun. Now I’ve seen the finished product, and it was nice to see how an idea I had in my head has become a reality with people shooting it. I wanted to have a really light atmosphere to shoot it. It was just really fun.
EI: Are you ready to have a successful show on TV again?
MP: Yes, and it’s exactly how I wanted to do it. It has similar themes to this movie actually, but just a bit darker. I came up with the idea to give me something to do. It’s a comedy-drama.
EI: When you look back on Friends, how do you see it now?
MP: I just see it as an amazing time in our lives. We were very lucky to be involved in something that was creative that wasn’t a jerk-around. Everybody was nice. I think, in the lesson of this movie, if I could go back, I would take it all a little less seriously and just try to enjoy it a little bit more. But it was amazing. You watch American Idol now, and that’s such a big deal. That’s sort of what Friends was a few years ago.
EI: Do you have an all-time favorite movie?
MP: Yes, there are a bunch of those. Groundhog Day -- I can watch it over and over again; Heaven Can Wait, Annie Hall... And I’ve only seen 17 Again once, but I’m sure that will become the next one that I watch over and over. Okay, that was a joke. [Laughs]
EI: It is a familiar theme.
MP: Yes, it’s fascinating. It does have elements of Groundhog Day in it too, and of course Big. Wouldn’t we all want the chance of going back in life but knowing what we know now? We would like to be given another chance.
EI: This year, you turn 40. What have you learned about yourself in your 30s?
MP: I am looking forward to the 40s. I think 40s are going to be great. I learned a tremendous [amount] about myself in my 30s, and as a result of that, I’m really looking forward to my 40s. They are going to be the best decade for me.
EI: Usually, men hitting 40 go through a mid-life crisis. They buy a sports car.
MP: No, I did all that! I had my mid-life crisis when I was, like, 25. Now I’m sort of coasting along on any realizations about that. No, I don’t think I’m going to be buying anything.
EI: What TV shows do you like these days?
MP: I love the British Office and the American Office. I love both of those shows. I know its cliché, but I like a lot of the British shows -- like Alan Partridge and Extras. I love Lost.
EI: Have you figured it out yet?
MP: In the last couple of weeks, they’ve answered some more questions. I’m a fanatic for that show. I go online to try and figure out stuff. I’d rather watch the next episode of Lost than just about anything.