Ryan Gosling has paid tribute to the late Debbie Reynolds, saying she served as an "inspiration" for his critically-acclaimed musical La La Land.

The 36-year-old actor thanked Reynolds as he accepted the Vanguard award at the Palm Springs Film Festival on Monday night.

"I wish I could have said this in person but I'd like to thank Debbie Reynolds for her wonderful career of work," he told the star-studded audience.

The Hollywood big shot said the cast and crew of his new all-singing, all-dancing production watched Reynolds in the 1952 classic musical Singin' in the Rain for inspiration.

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"We watched Singin' in the Rain every day for inspiration, a truly unparalleled talent so thank you to her for all that inspiration," The Notebook star said.

Damien Chazelle's La La Land, also starring actress Emma Stone, opened to rave reviews and is considered a revival of the best movie musicals of yesteryear - particularly those from MGM's golden run in the 1950s.

Reynolds passed away last Wednesday at the age of 84, a day after her daughter, actress Carrie Fisher, died aged 60.

Reynolds didn't know how to dance before she was cast opposite the legendary Gene Kelly in Singin' In The Rain, but that didn't stop her from stealing the show.

"You know, I was so dumb that I didn't feel you could fail. I felt [the part] was me, and I marched straight ahead," she said in a 2012 interview with the American Film Institute.

She'd only been learning to dance for three months when the movie was filmed.

"To dance with Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor in three months - well, anyone else should've passed out. But I didn't. I just thought, 'Well, let's get started'," she said.

Reynolds and Fisher will be buried together on January 5.