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Doubtless plenty of the sadnesses and mysteries posed by Matthew Perry’s untimely death may never be fully unraveled. When GQ spoke to him last year ahead of his memoir’s publication, two competing narratives were perfectly apparent: that Perry longed to claim this as the moment when he could put his very many troubles behind him, and move forward into a better life based around founding a family and helping others; and that all kinds of ongoing struggles, as well as the legacies of past setbacks, still swirled within and around him. For all that he refused to spare himself in the sometimes brutal overspill of his book, it was obvious that there was plenty more he had not said.
Some things, however, might be slightly less of a mystery than they seem. In the hours since his death, attention has been drawn to the seemingly baffling fact that Perry’s last seven Instagram posts allude in one way or another to Batman. Perry didn’t post at all between mid-April and mid-October (maybe that’s its own story), before reappearing first to question why Elon Musk could “send a woman to the moon” but couldn’t invent a silent leaf blower, then, a few days later, to show him and his father with their arms round each other, behind them a painting with the words I Forget What I Forgot. Then, after that, nothing but Batman.
In the first of these posts, eleven days before he died, a camera panned around what appears to be a bedroom, with large flat screens on three walls, each showing the logo of the 2022 movie The Batman, and on the ceiling, among stars, the bat signal silhouette. “No need to worry everybody,” Perry wrote, “I've got the streets tonight.” The second, two days later, showed the bat signal, in red lights, appearing to hover off the edge of a building, city lights in the distance behind. Perry’s message: “Sleep well everybody. I've got the city tonight—Mattman.” Three days after that, he posted an electronic signboard with the message BATMAN PLAYS PICKLEBALL, and two Perry comments: “WTF?” and “Rest easy. I'm on a tall building.”
The following day, he made his final four posts. The first was a video of a hand placing three reddish oval berries, maybe goji berries, down on a flat surface: “This is what I've had to eat today. I'm Mattman.” The second was a photo of a Halloween-ready pumpkin with a Batman-logo-shaped hole. “Do you know what I mean?” he wrote. The third was a video of a half-moon in the sky, something half-seen flickering in the foreground, with the words “Do you understand what I'm trying to tell you?—I'm Mattman." The fourth—uncomfortably, given what would follow—was a picture of Perry, wearing over-ear headphones, in the far corner of a pool of some kind, swathed in purple light, the city and the same half-moon behind him. “Oh, so warm water swirling around makes you feel good?” he wrote. “I'm Mattman.”
You can see why people might feel tempted to look for messages, or auguries, or even declarations here. And maybe there could turn out to be more specific significance about why now he was so focused on pushing all of this forward. But the central aspect of this at least—the extraordinary and obsessive Batman fixation—even if on some levels still hard to explain, is nothing that suddenly emerged in the last days of his life. I referred to some of what follows in the article I wrote at the time, but perhaps it now makes sense to share exactly just how, and also how ardently, he discussed the subject. We met to discuss his memoir but, as the original article noted, he brought up this other topic within three minutes of us first sitting down.
Perhaps it’s easiest just to listen a while. He introduces the subject by pivoting from describing the renovations being done at his Pacific Palisades dream home to discussing a less well-judged previous property choice.
“It's small, which I like. I bought an apartment in LA that was 10,400 square feet. I bought it because Christian Bale had it in The Dark Night.”
That literal one?
“Well, not the one, but he had a big penthouse. So I got myself a big penthouse and then realized what a stupid mistake that was, and sold it and then bought something that's like 4,000 square feet.”
Was it fun for a while or not even for a while?
“Maybe the first few days when you got lost in it. But after that it was like: why did I do this?”
What was the thought before you had the second thought?
“The first thought was: I'm going to have the nicest apartment in LA. Bruce Wayne had a penthouse—I'm going to have one. As you can see, I'm a Batman fan.”
At this point, Perry shows me his phone, which has the Batman logo on its back.
Yes, what is this Batman thing?
“Oh, I just... I am Batman.”
Yes, well I've gleaned that there is this self-perception [I’d already read the last three words of his memoir’s prologue: “Also, I’m Batman”], but I guess I'm pressing you to fill it out a little.
“Well, he's a rich loner, we both drive black, cool cars. I don't solve crime. But I've saved people's lives.”
“So, there you go. Did you ask what my car is? Aston Martin. Has the interview started?”
It may have. I hope that's okay.
“Of course. That sounds fine.”
Have you had this Batman feeling for a long time?
“When the Chris Nolan movies started. So, Batman Begins, The Dark Night, The Dark Night Rises, and this most recent movie. The Batman, the most recent one was great. I was really surprised. I thought that was going to be a piece of shit. But it was great.”
Why did you impose the curse of it being a piece of shit?
“Well, because I didn't think anything could beat the Chris Nolan movies. And I would say The Dark Knight is the best one. Then The Batman. Then Batman Begins. And then The Dark Knight Rises. That's the order.”
Do you work at these lists?
[clearly joking] “I spend most of my time doing that.”
“Yes. I often say I'm Batman.”
To other people?
And what do they say?
“They think I'm crazy. No, they understand.
That's why every gift I get, people have trouble buying things for me because when I want something I just go buy it. So they end up getting me Batman stuff. I'm going to have a whole Batman room in my new house. Like a Matt cave.”
I see what you did there. And what will it have in?
“A pool table. A big TV, a black couch. And then surrounded by shelves of Batman paraphernalia that I have.”
And will you just go and sit in there?
“You watch TV, you watch the Batman movies. You play the Batman video game. There's a lot to do.”
“It is unusual. But I think your story should be I'm Batman. Or ‘he's Batman’.”
I'm listening. And I'd like more and more evidence, and I will try and come to an honest determination.
Do you think about this a lot of the time?
“The Batman thing? No. It just is with me all the time.”
A few minutes later, when the waitress here at Soho house takes Perry’s very precise order—meatballs, then a hamburger medium well, with no bun and no cheese and no fries but ketchup on the side—he has a question for her.
“Do I resemble Batman at all to you?” he asks.
“Yeah,” she replies, carefully.
Later, when Perry gets up to leave, I ask how he will spend the rest of the evening, and he says: “There's a friend home. I think I'm going to watch a movie and then crash out. It's been a long day. That was a long day.” I ask whether he knows what movie he’ll watch and he says, perfectly seriously, “The Batman.” (In the end, he’ll read John Grisham’s latest instead.) Before that, as we are eating Perry’s beloved sticky toffee pudding for dessert, he mutters, “I imagine your title for this article will be ‘Enjoying Sticky Toffee Pudding with Matthew Perry’.”
I ask him what the title would be if it were up to him. His answer comes instantly:
“‘Is Matthew Perry really Batman?’”
Originally Appeared on GQ