Paris American screen icon Clint Eastwood was made a commander in France’s prestigious Legion of Honor on Friday.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy presented the 79-year-old actor and director with the decoration, honoring his body of work, his longevity and his ability to delight audiences around the globe, according to the award citation.
Former French President Jacques Chirac had honored Eastwood as a knight of the Legion of Honor two years ago, and Friday’s decoration was a step up for Eastwood to grade three on the legion’s five-grade scale.
Speaking in English, Eastwood thanked Sarkozy and the French people.
“This is a wonderful honor,” Eastwood said. “It is just a great pleasure for me. I really love France. I love movies, and I love the appreciation that the French people have for movies.”
Eastwood promised to be fluent in French the next time he returned to the country.
Sarkozy bantered with Eastwood and asked the American how he managed to stay so fit. Sarkozy, 54, was hospitalized earlier this year after collapsing while jogging.
“You have to admit that there is a side about you that is a little annoying,” Sarkozy said. “Physically, how do you do it?”
Napoleon Bonaparte created the legion in 1802. It recognizes military, cultural, scientific or social contributions to France, including by people who are not French citizens.