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PARIS — Sean Penn is set to receive an honorary Cesar award in Paris during the 40th edition of the ceremony on Feb. 20.

“A mythical actor, an activist and an exceptional director, Sean Penn is a unique icon of American cinema. A living legend,” declared the Cesar Academie, France’s equivalent to the Oscars.

Penn has always enjoyed great popularity in France as an actor and a director. Nick Cassavetes’ “She’s So Lovely” earned him a best actor nod in Cannes, and the last film he directed, “Into the Wild,” was an arthouse hit in France. Penn served as president of Cannes Film Festival’s jury in 2008.

The actor, who won two Oscars for his performances in Clint Eastwood’s “Mystic River” and Gus Van Sant’s “Milk,” will next star in “Gunman,” Studiocanal’s high-voltage thriller directed by French helmer Pierre Morel. It will be released in March in the U.S.

Penn recently completed the shooting of “The Last Face,” a politically engaged international thriller he directed. It stars Charlize TheronJavier Bardem and Adèle Exarchopoulos. 

Previous Cesar honorees have included Eastwood, Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman and Kate Winslet.