Festival hands 78-year-old actor-director a lifetime achievement Palme d'Or, only the second in its history. Eastwood rails against politically correct culture that outlaws jokes about ethnicity and nationality
Man with the golden palm ... Cannes film festival president Gilles Jacob hands Clint Eastwood his lifetime achievement Palme d'Or. Photograph: Boris Horvat/AFP/Getty Images
Clint Eastwood yesterday became only the second person to receive a lifetime achievement Palme d'Or from the organisers of the Cannes film festival. The 78-year-old film-maker was honoured for his body of work at a presentation at Le Fouquet's restaurant in Paris. He joins Ingmar Bergman, who received the honour in 1997, in the most exclusive club on the festival circuit.
"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."
Yesterday, Cannes president Gilles Jacob paid tribute to Eastwood's work before and behind the camera. "It would be impossible to choose just one of your works for this supreme honour," he said. "It's the right time to give the Palme d'Or to Clint Eastwood." Turning to Eastwood, he added: "And forget about your legendary modesty."
While Eastwood may have been a model of modesty at yesterday's ceremony, he was rather more outspoken in an interview earlier in the week. Speaking to the German magazine Der Spiegel, Eastwood, currently seen in cinemas as an unreconstructed racist ex-soldier in Gran Torino, railed against what he sees as a culture of political correctness that has effectively outlawed jokes about people's nationality or ethnicity. "People have lost their sense of humour," he insisted. "In former times we constantly made jokes about different races. [But] you can only tell them today with one hand over your mouth, otherwise you will be insulted as a racist. I find it ridiculous."
He added: "In those earlier days every friendly clique had a 'Sam the Jew' or 'Jose the Mexican' – but we didn't think anything of it or have a racist thought."
Eastwood will not be attending this year's Cannes film festival because he will be in South Africa, shooting a biopic of Nelson Mandela. The event runs from 13-24 May, and the jury will be headed by Isabelle Huppert. [the guardian]