Clint Eastwood thanks France as Cannes pays tribute

PARIS, (Reuters) – Clint Eastwood paid homage to  French cinema after the Cannes Film Festival gave a special  lifetime achievement award to the evergreen Hollywood legend,  who is presenting his latest film at the age of 78.

Director and actor Clint Eastwood poses during a photo call to promote his movie “Gran Torino” in Paris February 24, 2009. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier (FRANCE)
Director and actor Clint Eastwood poses during a photo call to promote his movie “Gran Torino” in Paris February 24, 2009. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier (FRANCE)

“France’s cineastes here in this country have always been  very supportive of me all along the way,” he told reporters  after a special ceremony in a chic restaurant off the  Champs-Elysees. “I’m very lucky to have known all of you.”

The world’s biggest film festival gave a special Golden Palm  award to Eastwood, whose film “Changeling” starring Angelina  Jolie was shown at Cannes last year. The film failed to win one of the major prizes but Cannes  President Gilles Jacob said the festival had long wanted to  present a special award to Eastwood, who will not be on the  Croisette this year.
“With this highly symbolic gesture, the festival is matching  the unanimous enthusiasm that both the public and critics have  for you,” Jacob said. “It sometimes happens that someone is a  great artist and a frenzied egotist. That is not the case with  you.”

France maintains a complex love-hate relationship with  Hollywood. But Eastwood has been revered for his roles as the  taciturn gunman of Sergio Leone’s 1960s spaghetti westerns, the  hardboiled detective Dirty Harry and in more sympathetic roles  of late such as the repentant gunslinger in “Unforgiven”.

In Paris to present his latest film, “Gran Torino”, in which  he plays a reactionary war veteran forced to come to terms with  Asian neighbours, he had warm words for French cinema.

“France is where the cinema began with the Lumière  brothers,” he said. “It’s the first country which approached  cinema as an art form.”

“Gran Torino” has won warm reviews in France and attracted  some 18,000 film fans on the first afternoon of its release on  Wednesday, according to distributors Warner, the best ever start  for an Eastwood film in France.

The actor-director, whose career took off after his 1959  debut as Rowdy Yates in the TV series Rawhide, thought back with  affection to his first visit to the French capital to promote  what is still one of his best-loved films.

“I came for the first time in Paris in the mid ‘60s at the  Rex theatre for ‘A Fistful of Dollars’, a small film from an  unknown director with an unknown actor,” he said.

“Fortunately it went over and Sergio Leone became a  favourite here,” he said.

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