The star of La La Land honoured the legend in his speech at the Palm Springs Film Festival, saying he and the cast and crew of the film watched Debbie's hit 1952 movie Singin' in the Rain every day during filming.
"I wish I could have said this in person but I'd like to thank Debbie Reynolds for her wonderful career of work," Ryan said on stage while accepting the Vanguard award for best ensemble.
"She was an inspiration to us every day. We watched Singin' in the Rain every day for inspiration, a truly unparalleled talent so thank you to her for all that inspiration."
La La Land, which screened at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September, has quickly become a favourite for this awards season. It stars Ryan alongside his Crazy, Stupid, Love. co-star Emma Stone as a couple who fall in love in Los Angeles while trying to make their big break.
Beautifully shot by Damien Chazelle, fans of the film have said it's reminiscent of many of the classic musicals that defined the '40s and '50s, some of which Debbie starred in.
“Receiving all of your prayers and kind words over the past week has given me strength during a time I thought strength could not exist,” the Scream Queens star wrote on Instagram alongside an old photo of herself posing with Debbie and Carrie. “There are no words to express how much I will miss my Abadaba and my one and only Momby. Your love and support means the world to me.”