Festival President Gilles Jacob presented Eastwood with the special Palme d'Or, or Golden Palm, at a private ceremony Wednesday at the chic Parisian restaurant Le Fouquet's.
The privilege honored what a festival statement said was "the talent of a grand master at the summit of his craft." Jacob said it also was a "testimony of my admiration and a quarter-century of complicity."
"I'm very flattered," said Eastwood, who was surrounded by his family.
He praised the support of French filmmakers who "encouraged me to go on" when he made his directorial debut in 1970, "and where in my own country people were much more reticent."
"People were saying we're not even sure we like this guy as an actor much less as a director,"Eastwood said in accepting the award.
A Palme d'Or will be attributed by a jury to the top film at the Cannes festival, which this year runs from May 13 to 24.
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