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Todd Fisher on ‘Bright Lights’ and Wrangling Debbie and Carrie

Variety logo Variety 6/6/2017 Jenelle Riley
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As the son of Debbie Reynolds and brother of Carrie Fisher, Todd Fisher was the perfect choice to produce the documentary “Bright Lights,” which aired on HBO in January shortly after their passing. The film gave viewers a close-up look at the humorous and loving relationship between the legendary mother and daughter. Fisher has taken over managing his mother’s expansive collection of movie memorabilia, including costumes from her classic movies.

“Bright Lights” was a big success and I have to imagine you have enough footage to continue the story.

We have the material to do it, we have discussed it. When we made “Bright Lights,” it was challenging because there were many directions this thing could have gone. It took on a life of its own because of how Carrie and Debbie were responding to having the cameras around. What they were saying was steering the movie.

You obviously had unparalleled access.

If an outside company had come in, you would have had resistance. Because I was the producer, I think everybody felt they could let their hair down. And they did. There’s a lot of hair on the floor, so to speak.

They seemed to also really trust the directors, Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens.

The directors did an amazing job of gaining their confidence, which is not easy. It was very difficult to wrangle the two of them at times. And they were amazing about being OK with that and letting this thing evolve. It reminds me of “March of the Penguins,” where you’re like, “All right, let’s just watch these penguins do what they do.” You’re just watching them in their natural habitat.

Was there ever any hesitation about some of the more honest scenes in the film?

There were some who said, “We don’t want the footage of Carrie in the mental hospital.” I said, “First of all, I shot that footage and it’s not a mental hospital, it’s a hotel room in China. Second of all, it’s staying in the movie because this is the point of the movie.” The message is about surviving and overcoming. And look at all she was able to accomplish. She was capable of excelling in a magnificent way.

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