You could say France made his jour.
President Jacques Chirac on Saturday named Clint Eastwood a knight in the Legion of Honor, one of the country's highest accolades for a noncitizen and ranking the Oscar winner right up there with Jerry Lewis.
"France of course wants to pay homage to your immense talent as an actor, your genius as a director and to your place in the world of cinema," Chirac said during a ceremony at the presidential Elysée Palace. "You show the complexity of America, in all its grandeur and fragility, with its enthusiastic dreams and its worried questioning."
In paying tribute to the actor-filmmaker, the French leader also noted Eastwood's companion World War II films that unspooled last year to critical acclaim—Flag of Our Fathers, which tells the story of the U.S. invasion of Iwo Jima from the American point of view and how Marines were used to promote the war effort back home, and the Best Picture-nominated Letters from Iwo Jima, which relates the Japanese experience on the island and is the first flick Eastwood has ever done entirely in a foreign language.
On the eve of the latter's release in France, Chirac called the 76-year-old director—who's also up for Best Director for Letters—an "exceptional ambassador" for American cinema around the globe.
"On this side of the Atlantic, dear Clint Eastwood, you incarnate the best of Hollywood," said Chirac.
Eastwood accepted the honor with the same humility and grace that has marked his 50-year-career in movies.
"I've just finished being a Japanese director on a film and my great ambition one day is to do a French film, become a French director," said the erstwhile Dirty Harry.
Napoleon Bonaparte first created the Legion of Honor in 1804. It's France's highest order containing five classes, of which knight is the lowest rank.
Next up for Eastwood is a big-screen adaptation of First Man: A Life of Neil A. Armstrong, historian James R. Hansen's authorized biography of the astronaut. Eastwood will reportedly produce and helm the Warner Bros. biopic but has no plans to star.