With his Allied star Marion Cotillard looking on, director Robert Zemeckis was honored with the French Order of Arts and Letters before his film premieres here Sunday night.
The Oscar-winner said the medal was a "tremendous honor."
"I came from the south side of Chicago in a working-class neighborhood, so to be standing here today is beyond anyone's dream," said Zemeckis. "This is the first medal I have ever received and this is the first time my work has been acknowledged by an entire nation. And the fact that the nation is France is truly special, because France is the birthplace of film."
Culture minister Audrey Azoulay presented the filmmaker with the medal and said Zemeckis' movies "tell a young nation's story and unites its people with its ideals," adding that films like Forrest Gump and Back to the Future are "fabulous dream machines" of the American Dream.
Perhaps alluding to the recent election of Donald Trump, she added that when the dream "sometimes worries or disappoints us, this is when film carries us away."
The outspoken director said that while Allied is a thriller, it is set against the backdrop of WWII. "I think it's an important story to tell at this time - it speaks to a lot of stuff that is going on in the deep psyche of the world right now. It's set in the not-too-distant past," Zemeckis told The Hollywood Reporter. Of the upcoming Trump presidency, he added: "It's going to be interesting times ahead."
"I may never take it off," he joked of the French honor. "No, there are rules about it. You can only wear it at state occasions. But there is a little lapel pin that comes with it that you can wear every day. I'll put it on my t-shirts."
Zemeckis follows Michael Keaton and Diane Kruger, among other Hollywood stars, who have received the medal.