Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds spent decades in the public eye. Nothing was off limits for the Hollywood mother-daughter duo. In interviews, stage shows, memoirs. and thinly veiled works of fiction such as “Postcards From the Edge,” Fisher and Reynolds dissected their tumultuous relationship, speaking candidly about everything from drug addiction to bad romances. What’s left to say?
“Everyone has read a million Carrie/Debbie stories. The only problem is, there are two million Carrie/Debbie stories,” said Todd Fisher, the other product of Reynolds’ ill-fated union with crooner Eddie Fisher.
So Todd Fisher decided to follow in his mother and sister’s footprints and write his own memories of growing up Reynolds with his new book “My Girls: A Lifetime with Carrie and Debbie.” His is a happier story. Carrie Fisher felt neglected by her father, a popular but reckless singer, who famously left Reynolds for Elizabeth Taylor. She also struggled with bipolar disorder.
In contrast, Todd Fisher writes about playing on the MGM backlot, walking in on Bette Davis in the bathroom, witnessing a knock-down drag-out fight between Taylor and Richard Burton, and growing up in an opulence that sounds like a West Coast version of “Downtown Abbey.” “Even the footmen had footmen,” jokes Fisher.
He also had a more trouble-free relationship with his mother than his sister. Carrie Fisher and Reynolds had frequent falling outs and would go extended periods without speaking to each another, but they also had an intense bond. Todd Fisher says their fierce connection never made him jealous.
“Carrie perceived me as a bit of threat because Debbie and I had a quiet, peaceful, unspoken love that did not require constant attention,” said Todd Fisher. “Carrie was more insecure about her relationship. I didn’t mind being Debbie Reynolds’ son, but Carrie was always trying to get out from under Debbie Reynolds’ shadow.”
Carrie Fisher was able to achieve her own fame, thanks to George Lucas. The director cast her as Princess Leia, the headstrong leader of the rebellion in “Star Wars,” a B-picture that exceeded all expectations by becoming a box office phenomenon. It made Carrie a household name and a gold bikini-wearing pin-up for the fanboy set.
But stardom wasn’t easy, Todd Fisher writes. Whereas Debbie Reynolds always took time for the public, Carrie Fisher only gradually accepted and enjoyed the notoriety that came with being a pop culture icon. After initially shunning the attention, she became a regular presence at fan conventions.
“It took Carrie about decade or two to embrace that she and Princess Leia were one and that her fans were kind of like an extended family,” said Fisher.
Todd Fisher grew up in the spotlight, as the son of a chart-topping singer and the star of “Singing in the Rain,” so press attention was a constant throughout his life. But even he was surprised by the intensity of the media coverage surrounding Carrie Fisher’s Dec. 27, 2016 death and the death, a day later, of Debbie Reynolds. Fisher said his mother willed herself to die, telling him in her final hours that she “wanted to be with Carrie.”
“She never wanted to outlive her children,” said Fisher. “It was shocking to lose them both, but in hindsight it was a beautiful thing. Even in the hospital, through my tears, I thought, ‘Wow, she did exactly what she said she would do.’”
Carrie Fisher left behind unpublished writings, which Todd Fisher said the family is sorting through. It will be up to her daughter, Billie Lourd, to decide if they will ever be made public. The family also had to decide what to do with Gary, her beloved French bulldog, who frequently joined her in interviews and on red carpets. The actress’ assistant Corby McCoin inherited the dog, because they had formed a bond over the years.
A year after her death, Todd Fisher got to see his sister on-screen in her most iconic role. Carrie Fisher had shot most of her scenes for 2017’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” before her fatal medical emergency. He said it was comforting to see the film, but he acknowledged that one sequence was particularly difficult to sit through. Leia falls into a coma in “The Last Jedi” — something that brought back memories of the four final days that Carrie Fisher spent on a ventilator in intensive care.
“It cut close to the bone,” said Todd Fisher.
“The Last Jedi” closes with Leia still a vital part of the resistance. Todd Fisher hopes that the character will continue to play a role in the forthcoming “Star Wars: Episode IX,” though he said that Disney, the studio behind the series, hasn’t told the family what Leia’s fate will be in future installments.
“Yoda came back in the last movie, so why not Carrie?” said Todd Fisher. “In the first film, Obi-Wan says that if he dies, he’ll come back stronger than ever. I feel like that’s Carrie. She’ll never disappear entirely.”
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