Matthew Perry wanted to make a semi-autobiographical superhero project called “Mattman” with Adam McKay

The "Anchorman" and "Big Short" director opened up about the idea in the wake of Perry's untimely death.

Matthew Perry had an ambitious idea for a comeback vehicle before his tragic death: a superhero project inspired by his life and career.

Adam McKay, the Oscar-winning filmmaker behind movies like Anchorman and The Big Short, revealed in a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter that he discussed the concept of a project about "Mattman" with the late Friends star while working with him on Don't Look Up.

"It's about this guy," McKay recalled Perry pitching him. "You'd recognize him. His name is Matt and he's very famous and about 50 years old. His life is a little bit of a mess. He's lost. Out of the blue a distant relative dies and leaves him $2 billion — and he uses [it] to become a superhero."

McKay said that Perry envisioned himself in the leading role, which makes sense given the parallels between the character and the actor's own life. He also said Perry wasn't sure if the project should be a movie or a TV series.

Nick Rood/Getty Images; Taylor Hill/FilmMagic Matthew Perry and Adam McKay
Nick Rood/Getty Images; Taylor Hill/FilmMagic Matthew Perry and Adam McKay

McKay admittedly wasn't immediately taken with the concept, but saw a vulnerability in Perry's pitch that he admired. "Any movie idea is kind of like someone telling you their dream," McKay said. "And there's kind of obviously a meaning behind it. And when I heard that idea, I was like, 'Oh, that's interesting that that's the idea that he wants to do.'"

The Vice filmmaker responded with a more down-to-earth pitch. "My idea was just to do a show about being this incredibly popular, well-known TV guy who's dealing with addiction… a fictional version of what you've struggled with," McKay said. "The idea that everywhere you go, people yell your catchphrases a little bit of your past, the addiction, what it's like, because everyone views you through this lens of this cheery, bright, multicolored show. And then, meanwhile, you're a human being who's dealing with real addiction, real pain. It could be an incredible show. It could be really funny. It could really affect people's lives."

McKay believed such a show could find an audience. "The world has changed. You could actually do that show now," he said. "Ten years ago, people would have said you're crazy. But now people can be more upfront about their mental health issues, their addiction issues, and it's kind of wonderful."

The project never materialized, because Perry wasn't interested in McKay's alternate take. "And it's not the kind of idea you push on someone," McKay said. "So I was like, 'OK.'"

Those conversations took place on the set of Don't Look Up, in which McKay had cast Perry in a small role. Unfortunately, Perry only shot one scene in the film before flying to Switzerland to enter a rehab facility.

"We selfishly wanted him in the movie — he's very talented — but we were also hoping that doing the movie could be a little toehold to kind of get some degree of working rhythm back to hopefully remind him how good he was," McKay recalled. "He was back, and I was super excited to do the movie with him."

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