Clint Eastwood gets lifetime Palme d'Or

Award pays homage to his career in front of, behind camera

PARIS -- Clint Eastwood on Wednesday became only the second person to receive a lifetime achievement Palme d'Or as Festival de Cannes toppers Gilles Jacob and Thierry Fremaux presented the honorary award at an intimate ceremony in Paris.

Organizers had planned to honor Eastwood during last year's festival, but he insisted on putting "Changeling" In Competition.

"It would be impossible to choose just one of your works for this supreme honor," Jacob said of the "symbolic gesture," which paid homage to Eastwood's career in front of and behind the camera.

"It's the right time to give the Palme d'Or to Clint Eastwood," Jacob added, telling Eastwood, "And forget about your legendary modesty."

After heading to Cannes for the first time in 1985 with "Pale Rider," then again with "Bird," "White Hunter Black Heart," "Mystic River" and "Changeling," Eastwood accepted his Palme d'Or during a small news conference and cocktail party at famed restaurant Le Fouquet's.

"I'm very, very flattered that you've chosen me for this," Eastwood said. "French cineastes have always been very supportive of me along the way. When I directed my first movie, French cineastes and critics encouraged me, while in my own country, everyone was much more reticent. France is the first country to approach and appreciate cinema as an art form."

The Festival de Cannes has given only one other lifetime achievement Palme d'Or, presenting it to Ingmar Bergman during the event's 50th edition in 1997.

Eastwood won't be able to attend the 2009 fest because he will be shooting in South Africa, so organizers took advantage of the director's Paris trip to promote "Gran Torino," which hit Gallic theaters Wednesday.

"We took advantage of this magnificent opportunity and decided to give the prize to him here in Paris," said Fremaux, who promised that this year's festival will be "simple and beautiful."

The 2009 Festival de Cannes is set to run May 13-24.