When Debbie Reynolds saw the documentary “Bright Lights,” featuring herself and children Carrie Fisher and Todd Fisher, she was asked what she took away from the film. According to Todd, “She said, ‘I saw how much I loved my children.’ My mother was the ultimate mother. And if you asked her what was your greatest accomplishment, it wasn’t he singing and the dancing and all the entertaining she did. She would say, ‘It was my kids, my family.’ That was what was important to her.”
Todd Fisher spoke of his late mother and sister, both of whom passed away in December, following a screening of “Bright Lights” at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival on Wednesday night. The festival will also screen Reynolds’ Oscar-nominated performance in “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” Thursday night in a special screening held in a barn. Todd Fisher was joined by his wife, actress and author Catherine Hickland, for the conversation, moderated by Variety’s Jenelle Riley. Introducing himself as “Princess Leia’s brother,” Fisher talked at length about the making of the film and his special relationship with his mother and sister.
He also revealed details about the upcoming memorial service for the two, to be held on March 25 at Forest Lawn Memorial Park. “The public is invited because that’s how my mother would want it,” said Fisher. “She was very connected to her fans and felt they were a part of her, so we’re opening it to the public.”
Hickland added that it will be held at a 1,200-seat theater and it would be “spectacular,” as the pair have been hard at work planning the event for months. It will also be livestreamed, with information on how to watch found at http://www.debbiereynolds.com.
Fisher revealed that one special tribute will be paid by musician James Blunt, who was a good friend of Carrie’s and even wrote his hit song “You’re Beautiful” in her bathroom. “He wrote a beautiful song to Carrie that will be released on the day of the memorial; we’re going to premiere the song,” said Fisher, warning that “it might rip your heart out.”
Though the night was full of laughter as “Bright Lights,” directed by Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens, details the often humorous relationship between Reynolds and Carrie Fisher — who at one point refers to her mother as “tsu-mommy” — there was also much emotion. After Carrie passed away Dec. 27, Todd recalled a conversation with his mother where, he says, “She was kind of asking my permission to leave the planet.” Reynolds passed away the next day.
In fact, in “Bright Lights,” Reynolds speaks about her own passing, even though filming of the doc finished in 2015. “In this movie she says, ‘I will not be here.’ She just called this whole thing; it’s uncanny,” Todd Fisher noted. “In show business they say it’s important to know how to make a great entrance and a great exit. She told me one day she was leaving and the next day she left. I can only say it was God’s grace and her amazing faith and her power to call these things. When this movie was being made, we didn’t see two people who were leaving.”
Hickland also recalled a touching moment after Reynolds had had a stroke and was struggling with her memory. She was in bed watching TV with Reynolds (Hickland admitted with some embarrassment she thinks they were watching “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”) “She turned to look at me and said, ‘I don’t know who I am. Do you know who I am?’” said Hickland. “And I said, ‘Have I got some good news for you!’ I got the Blu-ray of ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ and put it on and she could not believe that that was her. And I said, ‘You are the last living legend, you are very loved by people, and you are supremely talented.’”
Added Fisher, “She was more Molly Brown than Molly Brown. And Carrie was also like that, in her own right.”
The SLO Film Festival runs through March 19; for more information visit slofilmfest.org. “Bright Lights” is available to watch on HBO and Amazon.com.