Fisher Stevens and Alexis Bloom directed what would become Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds final collaboration

By Mary Green
Updated January 08, 2017 06:07 PM

Fisher Stevens and Alexis Bloom directed what would become Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds final collaboration in the HBO documentary Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds (premiering Saturday, Jan. 7, at The pair spent more than a year intimately following the lives of Fisher and Reynolds ahead of the 2015 Screen Actors Guild Awards. Following the news of their deaths, the two directors wrote a letter chronicling their time working with the Hollywood legends, which was excerpted in this week’s PEOPLE cover story. Read the touching tribute below.

“What connects you two, apart from the red carpet?” an interviewer once asked Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. Carrie smiled, and replied: “Oh, we’re always on a red carpet, a red carpet connects our homes.” Everyone laughed. But Carrie’s joke wasn’t far from the truth.

At the one end of the family compound in Beverly Hills lived Debbie Reynolds, star of Singin’ in the Rain, with Dorothy’s red slippers from The Wizard of Oz on the mantelpiece. Adjacent was Princess Leia, in a house where Bette Davis once lived. You don’t get more Hollywood royalty than that.

Storytelling magic lived around them. When we arrived at the compound to film Debbie and Carrie, we discovered a wonderland festooned with pink coffee pots, gnomes and tiny statues of the
Nativity. Every tree on their property was adorned with something that sparkled.

Credit: Marion Curtis/StarPix/REX/Shutterstock

Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher shared a bond like no other. Subscribe now for an inside look at Hollywood’s legendary mother-daughter duo — only in PEOPLE.

Both women kept Christmas trees all year round because they loved the lights. “My mother’s like Christmas,” Carrie confided. “She’s something special.” The feeling was mutual: Carrie’s singing moved Debbie to tears. “Do you hear that voice?” she’d say. “Wish I had it!”

Carrie and Debbie were cultural touchstones, but they were full of admiration for the work of others — they were proud to be fans. They adored classic movies and knew all the lyrics to the American songbook. Turner Classic Movies was always playing in the background. A tune was always on their lips. Carrie wrote and read voraciously — she was always scribbling things down and had multiple notebooks on the go. And Debbie could name every great dancer, singer — and hair stylist — who ever lived.

In this, mother and daughter were remarkably similar. They shared a passion for talent and were humble about their own work. They also deferred to each other — sometimes with tenderness, and sometimes with a distinctly raised eyebrow.

When we filmed Debbie, we often had the feeling she was allowing us to film because “this film is all Carrie’s idea.” And when we filmed Carrie, we had the distinct impression she saw the film as a tribute to Debbie.

Each was acutely aware of the other’s vulnerabilities. “My mother doesn’t like going to the hospital,” Carrie told us. “The lighting is awful.”

“Well, Carrie, it’s time to go to bed!” Debbie would say, when her daughter was tired. Even though it was 4 o’clock in the afternoon, she’d remonstrate: “Say goodnight to everyone!”

We could’ve made a film about Carrie Fisher. We could’ve made a film about Debbie Reynolds. But as Carrie said, “the umbilical cord was never cut.” They had what Carrie called “rampant empathy” for each other. And it was contagious.

We started out making a film about Hollywood royalty, and we ended up making a film about love.