In receiving the honor from Cannes, Delon will follow in the footsteps of Jeanne Moreau, Woody Allen, Bernardo Bertolucci, Jane Fonda, Clint Eastwood, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Manoel de Oliveira, Agnès Varda and Jean-Pierre Léaud.
Describing Delon as a “giant, a living legend, a global icon… [and even] a box office champion,” the festival said the honorary Palme d’Or will “pay tribute to [Delon’s] wonderful presence in the history of film.”
“Pierre Lescure and I are delighted that Alain Delon has accepted to be honored by the festival,” said Thierry Fremaux, Cannes’ artistic director. Fremaux added that Delon “hesitated for a long time, having long been reluctant to [accept] this Palme d’Or because he thought he should only come to Cannes to celebrate the directors he had been working with.”
Delon, who is nicknamed Spring Samurai in Japan, has starred in more than 80 films and worked with some of the world’s most celebrated filmmakers, including Michelangelo Antonioni, Visconti, Jean-Pierre Melville and Jean-Luc Godard, and starred alongside some of the greatest movie stars, including Romy Schneider, Jean Gabin, Yves Montand and Lino Ventura.
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Cannes also pointed to Delon’s career behind the camera, first as a producer on “The Unvanquished” by Alain Cavalier, and as a director on two crime thrillers, “The Fighter” and “For a Cop’s Hide,” based on Jean-Patrick Manchette’s novel.
“With his charisma, his eyes and his expression of tension, Delon’s acting is a genre in itself in ‘Le Samourai’ – a huge source of inspiration for John Woo and Quentin Tarantino – where he is the film,” said the festival.
Delon’s relationship with the Cannes Film Festival dates back to the start of his career, with the premiere of “The Joy of Living” in 1961. He was back on the Croisette several times throughout the years, notably for “The Eclipse” in 1962, “The Leopard” in 1963 and “Mr. Klein” in 1976.
Delon also attended Cannes’ 60th anniversary festivities and has been supporting the restoration of some of his favorite films for Cannes Classics. Although Delon has said that his acting days were over, he recently admitted having one regret. “There is one thing I’ve missed out on that will always haunt me: I would have liked to have been directed by a woman before I die.”
The 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival will run May 14-25, kicking off with the world premiere of Jim Jarmusch’s “The Dead Don’t Die” in competition. The jury will be presided over by Oscar-winning Mexican director Alejandro González Inárritu.