MADRID — Max von Sydow, the face of Swedish acting down the decades, received France’s Legion d’honneur, its highest distinction, in a ceremony Wednesday at the Lumiere 2012-Grand Lyon Festival.

Frederic Mitterrand, France’s former Minister of Culture and Communication, selected von Sydow as a Legion d’honneur recipient in 2011.

Bestowing the award on the 83-year-old actor in Mitterrand’s name, Thierry Fremaux, Cannes delegate general and director of Lyon’s Institut Lumiere, recounted a prolific and sustained career, which began in 1949 with Alf Sjoberg’s “Nils,” took in 13 films by Ingmar Bergman, beginning with 1956’s “The Seventh Seal,” and from “The Greatest Story Ever Told” in 1965 mixes auteur films, U.S. movies and international titles, including films from von Sydow’s native Sweden.

Von Sydow has been nominated twice for an Oscar, first as best actor for 1987’s “Pelle the Conqueror,” the second as supporting actor in 2011’s “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.”

Acting in more than 140 films, von Sydow’s life has been “work, work, work,” Fremaux said.

Moved, von Sydow thanked France for the award and for giving him so much in life. Though globetrotting for much of his latter career, he now lives in Paris and is married to French filmmaker Catherine Brelet.