Friends reunion: Everything we learnt in the much-anticipated special

Among the big revelations in the much-anticipated reunion was that David Schwimmer had to be ‘begged’ to play Ross, and both Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston were nearly forced out of the cast

Adam White
Thursday 27 May 2021 10:19
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Matt LeBlanc says Matthew Perry thought classic Friends episode was ‘stupid’

The Friends reunion was, more than anything, a parade of niceness. The much-anticipated yet much-delayed special saw the show’s six cast members reflect on the series that brought them fame and riches, play games and recreate famous Friends moments.

It was also full of cute bits of trivia for long-term fans, and at least a handful of reveals that inspired gasps.

As Friends: The Reunion arrives on UK television – it can be watched on Sky One and Now from today – we’ve collated some of the major talking points from the 110-minute special.

From the cast members who nearly embarked on an off-screen relationship, to the curse that may or may not have led to one of the regulars being injured, here’s everything you need to know.

Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer wanted to date each other in real life

The reunion’s biggest reveal answered the eternal question of whether the chemistry between the Friends cast ever translated to off-screen romance. It turns out: almost.

“The first season I had a major crush on Jen,” Schwimmer revealed. “We were both crushing hard on one another, but it was like two ships passing ‘cause one of us was always in a relationship and we never crossed that boundary.”

Aniston said she “reciprocated” Schwimmer’s feelings, before the reunion showed a montage of misty-eyed behind-the-scenes footage of the pair overtly flirting with each other in between takes.

Aniston also revealed that she told Schwimmer in 1995 that it would be “such a bummer” if the pair’s first kiss happened while playing Ross and Rachel instead of in reality. Ultimately, it proved an omen, as both actors never actually got together.

Cox, however, looked on the bright side, suggesting that the pair’s on-screen chemistry “probably wouldn’t have been as great” if they had hooked up for real.

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Read the full story here.

The cast of Friends (sans David Schwimmer) in their much-anticipated reunion

Matt LeBlanc’s drunken injury won him the Joey role

LeBlanc revealed in the reunion that he was up late preparing his lines for his Joey audition the following morning, but then decided to “go out drinking”.

When he woke up the next day, LeBlanc recalled, he “kind of blacked out” as he ventured to the bathroom, and “fell face first into the toilet”. He added that “a huge chunk of meat came off” his nose as a result, and he finally arrived at his Friends audition bearing “a huge scar”.

Asked by co-creator Marta Kauffman how it happened, LeBlanc “told the truth and got the job”.

Read the full story here.

In a particularly ludicrous episode from season six, Joey recruits an actor, Carl, to play his identical twin in order to earn $2,000 as part of a medical research experiment. Coincidentally, the actor playing Carl, Louis Mandylor, who has a vague resemblance to LeBlanc, nearly played Joey himself.

“Matt got really down to the wire and auditioned for the network with another actor,” said the show’s producer Kevin S Bright. “He killed it, and he got the part of Joey. But the funny thing about it is that the other actor ended up on the show… playing the fake Joey, ironically.”

David Schwimmer and Matthew Perry in the Friends reunion

David Schwimmer had such a miserable time on a Henry Winkler sitcom that he nearly turned down Friends

According to Friends creators Kauffman and David Crane, David Schwimmer nearly rejected the Ross role, despite it being written specifically for him.

“David has quit television,” Crane remembered Schwimmer’s agent telling him. “He’s had a miserable experience doing another show. He’s moved back to Chicago to just do theatre. And we had to beg him [to join Friends]”.

“I believe we sent him gift baskets,” added Kauffman.

The pair promised Schwimmer that the Friends experience would be dramatically different to his previous time on a sitcom – which seems to be a forgotten Henry Winkler series called Monty. Winkler played a loud-mouth conservative TV commentator, while Schwimmer played his left-wing son. It only lasted one season.

Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry were both contracted to other shows when they got Friends

This is well-known Friends lore among die-hard fans, but both Aniston and Perry could have been forced to drop out of the series.

When he was cast as Chandler, Perry was already contracted in “first position” to a bizarre sci-fi comedy pilot about luggage handlers in the future. With Friends in “second position”, it would mean that the sci-fi show had contractual power over Perry if it got picked up to a full series.

Aniston was in a similar, and far riskier, situation. She was already a cast member on a sitcom titled Muddling Through, which finished its first season just two weeks before Friends began airing in September 1994. If Muddling Through was picked up for further episodes, Aniston would have to have been replaced on Friends, despite having filmed at least three episodes as Rachel.

In the reunion, Aniston reveals that she begged the Muddling Through producers to let her leave to play Rachel, but that a producer had told her it was a stupid decision.

“He said: I saw [Friends], I’m gonna tell you something, that show’s not gonna make you a star,” Aniston remembered.

Luckily for Aniston, Muddling Through was cancelled just as Friends began airing, while Perry’s alien series never made it past the pilot.

Matthew Perry worried a classic storyline was “stupid”

In season two, Joey and Chandler pledge to stay put in their trademark barcaloungers for days on end. It may be one of the best-loved stories that feature just the two of them, but Perry was initially worried the idea was “stupid”.

“Remember that episode where we never got out of the chairs?” LeBlanc asks Perry in the reunion. “At the beginning of the week, after the table read, you came to me and went it’s so stupid but I went, ‘Yeah, but that’s the brilliance!’”

Perry then had a change of heart, realising the pair could “have fun” with the story. History proved LeBlanc’s instincts correct.

Read the full story here.

Monica’s disappearing beam kept getting in the way of filming

Friends fans have often wondered what happened to the wooden beam that seemed to disappear from Monica’s apartment early on in the show.

Finally the mystery has been solved, with Schwimmer and Kudrow discussing the beam while wandering the recreated sets that appear in the special.

“Wasn’t there a decision to lose this?” Schwimmer asked Kudrow when he spotted the fixture.

Kudrow replied: “Yeah, I thought this was gone? This was here in the beginning and… it got in the way.” She then imitated a Friends director, saying: “Sorry, you got lost behind the beam.”

Read the full story here.

Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston as sisters Jill and Rachel

Reese Witherspoon got very flustered by Joey asking her character “How you doin’?”

Witherspoon had a memorable two-episode guest role as Rachel’s spoiled sister Jill in season six, and remembered immediately saying “yes” when she was offered the part.

Appearing in the reunion, Witherspoon added that she was most excited by a brief moment in one of her episodes in which Jill got to experience Joey’s legendary flirting.

“I got to be in a scene where I’m in the apartment and Joey walks in and he goes [“How you doin’?”] and it was his iconic line and I was so excited!” Witherspoon beamed. “To watch a famous character say his famous line? Come on!”

An on-set injury seemed to prove the existence of a Friends curse

Before filming every episode, the Friends cast would huddle in the hallway connecting both central apartments as a kind of “good luck” gesture. The only time they didn’t, while about to film a season three episode, Matt LeBlanc ended up dislocating his shoulder.

The injury proved so bad that LeBlanc was stuck in a sling for weeks, meaning it had to be written into the show. That also explains why Joey, off-camera, dislocated his shoulder in season three while jumping on his bed.

After LeBlanc’s injury, the cast speculated that it was punishment for skipping the huddle, and pledged to never avoid doing it again.

“After that, we’d be like, ‘Do we need to do the huddle?’” Kudrow remembered. “And [LeBlanc] would be like, ‘Yeah, ‘cause I don’t want anything else falling off.’”

Read the full story here.

You can read The Independent’s four-star review of the special here.

Watch Friends: The Reunion on Sky One and streaming service NOW from today (27 May).

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