BEVERLY HILLS — Relatives and celebrity friends gathered Jan. 5 at the compound of legendary Hollywood star Debbie Reynolds and her daughter, “Star Wars” icon Carrie Fisher, to pay tribute to the actresses who died one day apart last week.
With a crowd of media and photographers gathered on the street outside, celebrities including Meryl Streep, George Lucas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Holly Hunter, Meg Ryan, Ellen Barkin, Ed Begley Jr., Courtney Love and her daughter Frances Bean Cobain made their way through the gate of the compound on Coldwater Canyon to attend the memorial.
Reynolds and Fisher are expected to be interred at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills. Fisher is believed to have been cremated, but some of her ashes are expected to be buried alongside her mother.
Fisher, who gained fame playing Princess Leia in the “Star Wars” franchise but also was an accomplished author and screenwriter, died Dec. 27 at age 60, four days after suffering cardiac arrest while on a flight from London to Los Angeles.
The next day, Reynolds, 84, was at the home of her son, film producer Todd Fisher, helping to plan her daughter’s funeral when she was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center by ambulance. She died that afternoon from what Todd Fisher described as a stroke.
Todd Fisher told reporters that Reynolds “wanted to be with Carrie.”
He said Reynolds was always caring for her daughter, and with Reynolds’ recent history of health problems, Carrie Fisher’s death was apparently just too much for her to handle.
Todd Fisher elaborated on those comments in an interview with ABC’s “20/20.”
“It wasn’t that she was sitting around inconsolable — not at all,” he told ABC News’ Elizabeth Vargas. “She simply said that she didn’t get to see Carrie come back from London. She expressed how much she loved my sister. She then said she really wanted to be with Carrie. In those precise words, and within 15 minutes from that conversation, she faded out. Within 30 minutes, she technically was gone.”
The family is believed to be planning a future public memorial service for Fisher and Reynolds, possibly featuring stars such as Streep — who starred in the film “Postcards from the Edge,” which was based on Fisher’s 1987 semi-autobiographical novel.
A Texas native, Reynolds grabbed the attention of talent scouts when she entered a Miss Burbank contest at age 16.
She earned her first screen credit in “Three Little Words,” starring Fred Astaire and Red Skelton. She followed that performance with “Two Weeks with Love,” featuring the hit song “Aba Daba Honeymoon.” That led to her casting as Kathy Selden, a young dancer looking to make it big in Hollywood, opposite Gene Kelly in “Singin’ in the Rain.” The role made her a star.
She went on to perform in dozens more films, including “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” which earned her Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. She also appeared in “How the West Was Won,” “The Pleasure of His Company,” “Divorce American Style” and “The Catered Affair.”
She also received Golden Globe nominations for “Three Little Words,” “Bundle of Joy” and “Mother.” She was nominated for her TV work on “The Debbie Reynolds Show.”
Reynolds most recently appeared in the award-winning HBO movie “Behind the Candelabra,” portraying Liberace’s mother.
Reynolds married singer Eddie Fisher in 1955, but they divorced in 1959 after Fisher’s much-publicized affair with Elizabeth Taylor — one of Reynolds’ best friends. She married two more times, but both marriages ended in divorce.
Reynolds received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild in January 2015. The honor was presented to her by Carrie Fisher.
“My favorite movie was ‘Singin’ in the Rain,’ and I had a good time making that picture, wearing myself out,” Reynolds said at the ceremony.
Reynolds received the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in November 2015, honoring not only her film achievements, but her community service work. She was honored most notably as a co-founder of the Thalians, a charitable organization aimed at promoting awareness and treatment of mental health issues. The group has contributed millions of dollars to the Mental Health Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and to UCLA’s Operation Mend, which assists veterans trying to recover from physical and psychological wounds of combat.
Fisher pioneered the Princess Leia character in George Lucas’ “Star Wars” trilogy, the first film of which was released in 1977. She reprised her role in the 2015 film “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and will appear as Leia Organa in the eighth film in the series, which wrapped filming in July and is now in post-production.
As a child of Hollywood royalty born in Beverly Hills, Fisher’s childhood was anything but ordinary. She was 2 years old and her brother an infant when their father, the late singer-actor Eddie Fisher, left her mother to have an affair with actress Elizabeth Taylor, who was a close friend of Reynolds and the widow of Fisher’s close friend Mike Todd.
Fisher drew on her experiences in her semi-autobiographical novels, including “Postcards From the Edge.”
Her struggles with cocaine and prescription medication abuse are memorialized in her memoir, “Wishful Drinking,” which was adapted from her one-woman stage play of the same name.
Fisher, who was bipolar, also was open about her struggle with mental illness and became a powerful mental health advocate.
She authored a total of eight books. Her latest, “The Princess Diarist,” made headlines when it was released in November for its disclosure that she had an affair with then-married actor Harrison Ford during filming of the original “Star Wars.”
The actress was briefly married to singer Paul Simon in the 1980s. Her daughter was fathered by talent agent Bryan Lourd.
Fisher was stricken while en route home for the holidays after touring to promote “The Princess Diarist.” While in London, she also filmed episodes for the third season of the Amazon Prime comedy series “Catastrophe,” where she played the mother of star Rob Delaney’s character.
Fisher made her film debut as a teen in “Shampoo” in 1975, two years before becoming famous as Princess Leia.
Her other film credits include “The Blues Brothers,” “The Man with One Red Shoe,” “Hannah and Her Sisters,” “The ‘Burbs,” “When Harry Met Sally,” “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” and “Fanboys.”
HBO will air its documentary on the famous mother-daughter pair, “Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds,” Jan. 7. The network had planned to air it in the spring, closer to Mother’s Day, but moved it up after Reynolds’ death.