France honored film director Martin Scorsese by making him an officer of its Legion of Honor and gave actor Leonardo DiCaprio the slightly less prestigious Arts and Letters award.
Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres hailed Scorsese’s respect “for the rights of artists” at a ceremony Wednesday. He said the director gave life to “cinema that everyone — French, Europeans and Americans — likes.”
“I don’t know what to say after such a presentation,” said Scorsese, director of “The Aviator,” the new movie that stars DiCaprio as Howard Hughes.
“French cinema of the late fifties, and the sixties and seventies still, for me, is such an extraordinary inspiration,” said the 62-year-old director.
“Nothing has really come close to it in recent years,” Scorsese added. “I owe a great debt to French cinema.”
Napoleon Bonaparte created the Legion d’Honneur in 1802. It recognizes military, cultural, scientific or social contributions to France, including those by people who aren’t French citizens.
The French minister hailed DiCaprio — whose films also include “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” “Titanic” and Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York” — as a movie icon and as the “little prince of Hollywood and bad boy of Los Angeles.”
“Peter Pan of cinema, you are a global star,” the minister said as the 30-year-old actor looked on with an embarrassed smile.