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Harvey Weinstein selected for French cultural honor

March 2, 2012 |  7:09 pm

Only five days after the French film "The Artist" walked off with a handful of Academy Awards, Harvey Weinstein, the executive responsible for bringing it to the United States and orchestrating its Oscar campaign, has been selected for France's highest cultural award, the Legion of Honor.

Lest anyone think the two events are connected, however, the Weinstein Co. released a copy of the letter from French President Nicolas Sarkozy disclosing the news, dated July 22, 2011. "Weinstein requested to keep the honor private until now to avoid any conflict of interest with Academy Award best picture winner 'The Artist,'" Friday's release said.

In the letter, Sarkozy praised the American executive for "the exceptional quality" of the films he has produced, and described the Legion of Honor award as recognition of the friendship Weinstein has shown toward France and its cinema, "which you have enabled so many Americans to discover."

Weinstein and his brother Bob have been responsible for the distribution of more than two dozen French films in the United States, and will bring out the French interracial comedy hit "The Intouchables" stateside on May 25. They've also helped produce and campaign for a host of English-language Oscar winners such as "Shakespeare in Love," "The English Patient" and "Good Will Hunting."

In a statement, Weinstein expressed gratitude for the French award. "All my life, I have loved and been inspired by French cinema," he said. "I am still the young boy who walked two miles to the Mayfair movie theater in Flushing, N.Y., to see films by the greats -- Lelouch, Godard, Renoir and my personal favorite, Francois Truffaut. They inspired me and led me to the place I am today."

Other American filmmakers to have received the Legion of Honor include Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, Jerry Lewis and Charlie Chaplin.


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--Lee Margulies

Photo: Harvey Weinstein arriving at the Academy Awards last weekend. Credit: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times