Inside The Last Year Of Luke Perry's Life

The last year of Luke Perry's life was a testament to his shining career and his reputation as a modest, kind-hearted man. When he was cast as brooding intellectual dreamboat Dylan McKay in "Beverly Hills, 90210," he'd gone from a job in a doorknob factory — "scraping up big f****** glops [of] ... acidic waste," as he told Rolling Stone — to a teen idol. 

Despite being lusted over by just about everyone with a heartbeat, the film and TV star managed to maintain a level head. Speaking to Vanity Fair in 1992 about his sudden success, he said, "I'm not in this for my ego, and not out to become the biggest, baddest dude on the block." Instead, Perry focused on his work. As his teen idol status waned, he chose a variety of interesting roles which exemplified his talent for being "a character actor in the body of a heartthrob," as described by Jon Cryer on Twitter. He was less in the public eye, and he thrived.

In the last year of Perry's life, he continued to do his humble background proud. He showed love, support, and generosity to his family, friends, and co-stars — and probably even to people he'd never met before — and never lost sight of the things that were important to him. Be sure to have some sturdy tissues on hand as we go through the beloved actor's final year.

He helped David Arquette during his deathmatch accident

In 2018, David Arquette's wrestling career took a sharp turn when he was accidentally "stabbed in the neck" during a death match against Nick Gage, per Daily Star. Fortunately, he had a pal in the audience. The "Scream" star told the outlet that he "was in way over [his] head" and "was about half an inch from death" in the bloody brawl when Luke Perry came to his assistance. Upon exiting the ring, Arquette explained, "I could hear Luke but I couldn't see him. "

The "Riverdale" actor was attending the match to support his son, Jack "Jungle Boy" Perry, who was performing at the same event. It was lucky he was there. "We've been friends for over 30 years," Arquette explained to SI, "so Luke is the one I went to see to look inside the wound." After the former teen idol gave his verdict that a "main artery or vein" wasn't severed, his wrestling pal finished the match. Afterwards, Luke remained by his side. "He came with me to the hospital," he told People. "He was just an amazing, good guy."

Speaking to NME, Arquette detailed how the actor was considered "part of the [Arquette] family" ever since he lived in the family home "when he got cast in '90210.'" That bond, apparently, was everlasting. "He would always do really sweet things in the house for [my mom]," he explained, "even after he became a big star."

Luke Perry was his son's biggest fan

In the last year of Luke Perry's life, the actor was able to enjoy and support the wrestling career of his son. In 2017, Pro Wrestling Sheet even captured adorable footage of the proud dad attending a match in East Los Angeles, where he could be seen filming every second of Jungle Boy working his magic in the ring. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Jack Perry described how his father likewise adored wrestling, and attended every "dingy building" wrestling match he did "on the way up" in his career.

"He came to them all," he told the outlet. "He wore a disguise a lot of times." On Instagram, Jack further outlined how his father "inspired" him "to "be the best" he could possibly be, writing, "I'll do whatever I can to carry on your legacy and make you proud." By all accounts, he's doing so already. He's one of the youngest wrestlers on the All Elite Wrestling roster with The Sportster describing him as "one of AEW's most impressive future prospects." 

Two months after Luke's death, Jack paid tribute to his father by joining his friend, David Arquette in the ring for a match. According to Entertainment Weekly, after Jungle Boy pinned his opponent, the "Never Been Kissed" actor declared on the microphone, "I loved your father dearly. I love you." And then, he pulled the young wrestling star in for a hug.

Luke Perry was proud of his Quentin Tarantino role

In his 50s, Luke Perry appeared to be at the beginning of an interesting career resurgence — one which poignantly ended with his performance in Quentin Tarantino's acclaimed Los Angeles fantasy "Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood." Playing real-life Western star Wayne Maunder, the role was a well-earned triumph for the actor, with Jack Perry telling ET, "My dad was really proud of it. ... It was really good for him."

Apparently, it was really good for the cast and crew too. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Tarantino recalled how impressed he was with Luke's professionalism and skill as an equestrian. During one of his "big horse scenes," the actor was due to slide "the horse to the front of the saloon" where the rest of the film-within-a-film's cowboys would "fall in alongside him." Luke didn't need any help to get it right. As the director recounted, "He was like, 'Quentin? You could take a dime and throw it in the dirt and I will land on that dime. The take you'll use is when everyone else gets it right.'"

Adorably, co-stars Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio told Esquire that they were also starstruck at getting to work with someone who Pitt described as "an icon of coolness for us as teenagers." Upon seeing him on the set, DiCaprio told the outlet he "had this butterfly moment of like, 'Oh my God, that's Luke Perry over there!'"

Criminal Minds reprised his memorable character

The fact that Luke Perry could bring the set of a Quentin Tarantino movie to a fanboy standstill was proof of the late actor's continued star power. This was a star who had long demonstrated that he could manifest the greatest and most memorable of performances in what could often be the smallest of roles, with standout guest appearances in shows as varied as "Oz,""Community," and "The Simpsons." 

In 2018, "Criminal Minds" quite rightly paid tribute to this fact when Perry's deceased cult character Benjamin Cyrus was revived for the show's 300th episode — though thankfully, not literally. Featured in flashbacks, the character showcased curious connections to "FBI traitor and new cult leader Ben Merva," per TV Guide. But as executive producer Erica Messer told Entertainment Weekly, the character's return was also part of a larger celebration in aiming to "acknowledge the talent and history" of some of the show's best guest stars. 

It's an interesting detail to note, given that Perry's career was definitely in the midst of being re-appreciated and refreshed at the time of his death. When "Criminal Minds" concluded in 2020, various outlets such as Variety and Screen Rant took the time to include the actor's "forgotten" 2008 episode and performance in their roundups of the show's highlights. It was a testimony to his talent, but also to the unlocked potential of the many roles that Perry could have gone on to play. 

He remained at the heart of Riverdale

Notably, the final year of Luke Perry's life also saw the former teen idol continuing his performance as Archie's beloved blue-collar dad, Fred Andrews, on "Riverdale." He was finishing work on the third season of the edgy interpretation of the "Archie" series when he died, where he was seemingly aware of the changing nature of his character. As he told reporters at Comic-Con, "My son's growing up, right? He's becoming his own man. That's what's really hard for me." 

With Archie finding his own way in the world — and stumbling in and out of juvie on the way — how would Fred continue to factor into the ongoing "Riverdale" narrative? Perry's final appearance in episode 19 of Season 3 halted Fred's journey, but it also seemingly answered that question: The doting dad would always be there for his son — in one form or another. As showrunner Roberto Aguirre Sacasa wrote of the character's final scene on Twitter, Fred is shown "doing what he does best — helping Archie." 

Behind the scenes of the show, Perry was arguably just as supportive and present to the cast and crew of "Riverdale" as his character was to the town's community. Whether he was taking KJ Apa under his wing or goofing off in Lili Reinhart's Dark Betty wig, the actor's role in the show may have been small, but he was a devoted and intrinsic part of it nonetheless. 

He was in talks to revisit his '90s zip code

Luke Perry's "Riverdale" contract may have prevented him from joining the "Beverly Hills, 90210" reboot. At the end of 2018, a production source on the hit The CW show claimed that the actor's deal with the show meant "he could only guest star" in the potential revival, "and could not be a series regular," per ET. By all accounts, he was definitely interested in being part of it, however. 

In a 2017 interview with the Daily Mail, Perry shared that he was "excited ... to get back together" with the rest of the cast for a potential reunion and even joked that he'd "get the spray out" to revive the classic Dylan McKay bad boy quiff to do so. Curiously, in February 2019, Tori Spelling confirmed to Access that a "Beverly Hills, 90210" reunion was definitely happening and that, despite his busy "Riverdale" schedule, Perry was involved. "Luke will do as many [episodes] as he can do," she explained. 

Speaking to People, Spelling further claimed that her co-star was supportive of the show behind the scenes and even joined their first meeting "on speakerphone." Tragically, the official announcement of the show's meta revival — wherein the cast played exaggerated versions of themselves — arrived on the same day that Perry experienced his first massive stroke. As IndieWire pondered, the revival's twist "seemed perfect for Perry's sensibilities" as an actor with a beloved history of spoofing his persona. 

Luke Perry was planning a wedding

It wasn't just Luke Perry's professional life which seemed to be entering a new and joyful phase, however. In 2018, the actor was also planning a wedding to his long-term partner, Madison Bauer, a therapist and former actor, according to People. The outlet reported that the two enjoyed such a private and low-key relationship that it was unknown how long the two had been together for or when they got engaged. 

When Perry died, however, his fiancée shared a touching tribute which revealed the depth and duration of their romance. In a statement shared with Today, Bauer called her late partner an "extraordinary man" and shared, "The past 11 1/2 years with Luke were the happiest years of my life, and I am grateful to have had that time with him." 

According to TMZ, evidently the two were set to be married on August 17, 2019 — five months after Perry's tragic death. It seems safe to assume that in the final year of his life, he was likely in wedding planning mode and excited to tie the knot with his beautiful bride. 

Luke Perry was an advocate for better health awareness

In 2018, Luke Perry teamed up with Fight CRC, an advocacy group with an aim to educate and inform people about colorectal cancer. Speaking to FOX 11 Los Angeles, the star revealed that he became an advocate for raising awareness about the disease after his own health scare with it in 2015, following a screening test. "They found precancerous polyps," he explained, "and had I waited until I was 50 [there was] a very good chance I would have had full-blown cancer." 

While in conversation with Fox News, he reiterated that early detection was crucial in fighting the disease and that he "wanted to get out there and tell people about it" to raise awareness of it to people of all ages. "This [is] the most detectable cancer that we know of yet it's the second most lethal," he explained to the outlet. Understandably, the scare pushed Perry to make healthy adjustments to his lifestyle, including cutting down on red meat — which studies have linked to an increased colorectal cancer risk — and eating "a lot more fish, natural grains and fiber." 

As reported by Radar, Perry's healthy regime was further witnessed and acknowledged by his neighbors who reportedly "often saw the actor walk his dogs and perform 'regular exercise routines.'" He was said to have also "frequented" a nearby gym. By all accounts, Perry appeared to be a healthy 52-year-old man, which is perhaps what made news of his death from a debilitating stroke all the more shocking. 

Luke Perry's death also boosted stroke awareness

On March 4, 2019, Luke Perry was announced dead following a severe stroke which had hospitalized him days earlier. According to TMZ, doctors had sedated the actor, "hoping to give his brain a fighting chance to recover" — something which sadly never happened due to his deteriorating condition. The news understandably came as a shock to everyone who knew and loved him, whether personally or from afar. 

Prior to his death, Radar tried to make sense of the actor's condition. The outlet reported that Perry's neighbors described him as suffering from some minor ailments — such as "back problems" which he'd purportedly received surgery for — but that he appeared "healthy." Just as he had used his own cancer scare to encourage people to get screened for colorectal cancer, Perry's death seemingly helped to raise awareness of strokes: Who can get them, and how they can be caught in time to prevent lasting damage. 

USA Today, for instance, reported that Perry was sadly not "too young to have a fatal stroke" and highlighted that they can "be particularly dangerous for middle-age adults," if they aren't caught and attended to quickly. Meanwhile Today suggested that his death served as "a wake-up call for Generation X," in offering a reminder that those who grew up in the '90s "are not invincible ... and not so young anymore." 

He'd organized his estate and end-of-life arrangements

At the very least, Luke Perry had made clear plans for worst-case scenarios regarding the end of his life. Fellow "Beverly Hills, 90210" star Ian Ziering explained on the podcast "Hustling with Vivica A. Fox" that his friend had "put all his ducks in a row in the event that he would pass." He continued, "His advance directive was very clear. He did not want to be supported on life support."

As reported by Forbes, Perry's execution of such legal documents would have ensured that his family could make the decision to enact his request. As the outlet suggested, it's hopeful but unknown whether the actor also had his documents in order for his estate. According to Radar, following his 2015 cancer scare, Perry reportedly had the foresight to organize his assets to ensure that his two children were to receive "everything" in the event of his death. 

This has never been verified, however, and as Forbes mused there was a lingering question as to whether adjustments had been made to likewise financially protect his fiancée, in the event of his death. Perry's estate was said to be worth $10 million at the time of his death, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

Luke Perry wanted to be biodegradable

One other arrangement that Luke Perry had organised for his death involved his burial request. Side-stepping any traditional resting place instructions, the actor instead requested that he be laid to rest in an eco-friendly mushroom burial suit. On Instagram, Sophie Perry explained that her dad discovered the environmentally friendly option, and was "more excited" by the idea than she'd ever seen him. "He was buried in this suit, one of his final wishes," she wrote. "They are truly a beautiful thing for this beautiful planet."

On "Hustling with Vivica A. Fox," Ian Ziering affectionately recalled laughing at Luke's enthusiasm for the suit. The real-life Dylan McKay had seen it talked about during a Ted Talk and even told Ziering that he wanted to invest in the biodegradable burial suit business. However, the "Sharknado" actor forgot about the conversation until the funeral. "When his family brought him out of the hearse, he was in that suit," Ziering explained, "There was a cowl over his head, there was a suit that covered him and buttoned down the side, booties and gloves."

Luke Perry is lovingly remembered

After Luke Perry's death, it was beyond apparent what a cherished and kind man the actor appeared to be, according to those who knew him. Tributes to the late star flooded social media, as did anecdotes which backed up Shannen Doherty's assertion to People that her former co-star and friend, was a "smart, quiet, humble, and complex man with a heart of gold."

Writing on Twitter, his "Riverdale" co-star Lili Reinhart similarly shared her shock and devastation that he "will no longer be around to give long hugs and share his wisdom and kindness with all of us." Though his death obviously had a huge impact on those who had worked and lived with the star, he'd even made a dent on those who'd had the briefest of encounters with him.

The sweetest of which included Colin Hanks' heartwarming Instagram anecdote about the only time he met the "Beverly Hills, 90210" alum. The "Fargo" star recalled being on a flight wherein two young brothers were "crying, yelling, and screaming." He wrote, "Out of no where, a man comes from first class ... blowing up a balloon ... He ... hands it off like he's holding out a sword to a king. Kneeling, Head down, arms up. Kids calm down in milliseconds." Realizing the unassuming hero was Perry, Hanks chatted with the star and discovered that he "always flies" with balloons "to give to screaming kids." Suffice it to say, he'll always be fondly remembered.