Delon honoured at Cannes despite criticism

French actor Alain Delon has received an honorary Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
French actor Alain Delon has received an honorary Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

An emotional Alain Delon has received a prize for his six decade-long acting career as the Cannes Film Festival shrugged off criticism prompted by his views on women and same-sex couples to give him an honorary Palme d'Or.

Delon's heart-throb good looks and roles in major movies throughout the 1960s and 1970s made him an icon in France and he was received with a rapturous standing ovation by the crowd at a special ceremony at the festival on the French Riviera.

The decision to honour the 83-year-old actor has been controversial particularly outside France, sparking an online petition in the United States which achieved more than 25,500 signatories.

"One thing I'm sure about is that if there's something I'm proud of, really, the only thing, it's my career," Delon told the gala.

"And this Palme d'Or was given to me for my career, for nothing else and that's why I'm happy, and pleased, and satisfied."

Delon, who received the prize from his daughter Anouchka Delon, has starred in films including Luchino Visconti's The Leopard, which won the top prize at Cannes' cinema showcase in 1963.

He has inflamed public opinion over the years, including by declaring his friendship for French far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen, and has admitted to slapping women.

Earlier on Sunday, Delon stood by some of his views in an interview with France's Journal Du Dimanche and said other comments attributed to him had been distorted.

"I'm not against gay marriage, I don't care: people should do as they please," he was quoted as saying. "But I'm against adoption by two people of the same sex."

"I said I'd slapped a woman? Yes. And I should have added that I've received more slaps than I've ever given. I've never harassed a woman in my life. They, however, harassed me a lot."

Delon said he was "right-wing, full stop" and was not a supporter of the far-right.

In the run-up to Cannes, Melissa Silverstein, the founder of women's advocate group Women and Hollywood, called out the festival for honouring "these abhorrent values" with Delon's prize.

But Cannes' festival organisers have defended their choice, saying Delon was "not perfect" but was being recognised for his acting career.

Australian Associated Press