Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher lived much of their relationship the way they lived their lives: On stage. They discussed it on Oprah, Reynolds introduced herself as “Princess Leia’s mother” in her touring performances, and Fisher, of course, explored it repeatedly in autobiographical works like “Postcards From the Edge” and “Wishful Drinking.”
Their ties were sometimes fraught, often complex, and finally deeply intimate. Reynolds passed away just a day after her beloved daughter, who died after suffering cardiac arrest while hospitalized at the UCLA Medical Center. Her son and Carrie’s brother, Todd Fisher, reportedly said her last words were, “I want to be with Carrie.”
That intense bond is front and center in Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens’ documentary portrait, “Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds,” which is executive produced by HBO Documentary Films’ Sheila Nevins and RatPac’s Brett Ratner, and played at Cannes and at the New York Film Festival.
Now the question is when HBO will air the film, which is slated to screen once more at the Palm Springs International Film Festival next week before it makes its cable debut in 2017.
Update: HBO has announced that the film will now premiere on January 7, 2017. “We feel the cry for a true depiction of a relationship that goes beyond simple togetherness,” Nevins wrote me in an email.
I had contacted Nevins earlier to get her thoughts on Fisher, as well as the documentary’s air date. Here’s her response, unedited:
She was a friend and I lost her.
I loved her.
She paid the price for every witticism
She suffered Hollywood!s bright lights
Yet never saw herself as a star.
She loved comicon.
She loved the people who saw her as
And she loved the cash!
A good soul.
To be missed to be treasured.
Not a false bone, not a pretentious moment.
Carrie Always real.
We will run the show sooner rather than later.
Fans have long been fascinated by the actresses’ rich, messy lives, full of vital and often broken relationships. However, interest in the two women and their work has skyrocketed.
Fisher’s latest memoir, “The Princess Diarist,” is currently number 1 on the Amazon sales charts; her prior memoir “Wishful Drinking,” which she adapted from her one-woman Broadway show, was number 7. Stanley Donen’s “Singin’ In The Rain,” which feature a 19-year-old Reynolds in her first starring role, is currently the best-selling Amazon DVD. (It’s also available on iTunes.)
Their full lives were prime fodder for ‘Bright Lights.’ Here’s an excerpt from IndieWire’s David Ehrlich’s review:
“The film is strikingly open from the start, as an opening flurry of home video footage from Fisher’s childhood hints at the degree of access that has been granted to co-directors Fisher Stevens and Alexis Bloom. There’s candid, and then there’s Fisher sitting on a bed with old friend Griffin Dunne as they talk about how he once took her virginity (‘I took the pressure off your hymen,’ are Dunne’s actual words). Fisher commands the doc like the coolest of confessors, narrating with the confidence of someone who’s starred in a one-woman show about her own life and had Meryl Streep play her in a movie. If it often feels like Fisher and Reynolds are performing for the cameras … well, when are they not?”
In the meantime, HBO will air Fisher’s “Wishful Drinking” on New Year’s Day. Logo is overhauling its Friday and Saturday schedules in order to mount tributes to Reynolds. TCM Big Screen Classics had already booked “Singin’ in the Rain” to showing on more than 600 theaters nationwide on January 15 and 18.
And we have these thoughts from “Bright Lights” directors Bloom and Stevens, who emailed me shortly after Fisher and Reynolds’ deaths:
Individually, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds were remarkable women. Debbie was a consummate professional: she made performing seem effortless, but underneath her elegance was a staggering work ethic that honored her craft, and her beloved audience. Carrie was seemingly the opposite – candid and loose, her wit pushed boundaries in mischievous ways. But both were supremely kind human beings, and unusually perceptive. And when either one entered a room, the energy changed. Quite simply, we were iron filings to their magnets. And never more so than when they were together. These women were more than mother and daughter, they were an expression of exquisite humanity in all its travail and triumph. They lived their days boldly. They sang every song worth singing (often together.) Carrie and Debbie loved each other profoundly. We are devastated they’re gone. And so very fortunate to have known them at all.