‘Mesmerized by her mother:’ The story behind viral photo of young Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The photographer who took a 1963 photo of a 6-year-old Carrie Fisher watching her mother, Debbie Reynolds, perform onstage has gone public with the story behind the image as fans across the globe mourn the deaths of the two Hollywood icons.

Mother and daughter died a day apart this week. Fisher, 60, died Tuesday, four days after suffering a massive heart attack on a flight home to Los Angeles from London.

Reynolds, 84, died Wednesday after suffering a medical emergency as she and other family members planned her daughter’s funeral. Her son and Fisher’s brother, Todd Fisher, said his mother’s last words were that she “wanted to be with Carrie.”

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Photographer Lawrence Schiller spoke out Thursday about the bond he witnessed between the two on that long-ago photo assignment, which took place as he accompanied Reynolds from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Schiller, now 80, told the New York Times that Fisher seemed satisfied to sit and watch her mother for hours.

"Her daughter was really mesmerized by her mother always," Schiller told the Times. "That's what really stood out."

Carrie Fisher watching her mother Debbie Reynolds perform on stage. Our hearts are with their family. 
May they both Rest In Peace.

Posted by Inside the Magic on Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The photo, which has been shared innumerable times on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, shows the then-6-year-old Fisher sitting on a stool in the wings of the stage at Vegas’ Riviera Hotel as Reynolds sings, her arms outstretched toward her audience.

Schiller said that Fisher, who had earlier in the day sat for hours watching as he took portraits of her mother at their home, could not see her mother very well, so someone brought her a stool to sit on. She climbed up “all by herself” and sat quietly through Reynolds’ entire performance.

Sensing that the scene would make a touching moment, he captured the image to film using his Leica camera, which he used when he needed its quiet shutter for a "fly-on-the-wall" shot, the Times said.

The seasoned photographer told People that Fisher was "inseparable" from her mother in the two or three days he spent shooting photos of Reynolds. That description was also used in recent days to describe the pair as adults; mother and daughter lived next door to one another at the time of their deaths.

"She didn't have to be shepherded around," Schiller told the magazine about the young Fisher. "Every place her mother walked, she would walk after her."