In an elaborate event in a gilded hall, Culture Minister Christine Albanel made the two-time Oscar winner an honorary commander in France's National Order of Arts and Letters and tied a green medallion around the 71-year-old actor's neck.
Hoffman's eyes moistened, and after taking a second to regain his composure, he joked: "When you get to my age, you cry at the weather reports."
On a more serious note, he told The Associated Press he was "as satisfied as you can be when you wake up in the morning and say, 'that's the best dream I've ever had.'"
He attended the ceremony with his wife, Lisa Gottsegen.
Albanel called Hoffman "one of the greatest actors of our time", paying tribute to his Oscar-winning performances as a workaholic father in the 1979 movie "Kramer vs. Kramer" and as an autistic man in "Rain Man," from 1988.
"You have such a dramatic power that it is difficult to dissociate you from the characters you have played," Albanel said.
Hoffman said he had long been fond of French cinema, particularly movies by New Wave directors of the 1960s and post-WWII films.
Hoffman is to receive another award Friday at France's equivalent of the Oscars. He is to get an honorary Cesar award for the body of his work.
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