Clint Eastwood’s Career Honored at Venice Film Festival

Aug. 31, 2000 -- — He’s conquered the Wild West and outer space, and now Clint Eastwood reigns supreme at the world’s oldest film festival.

The screen legend is the chosen recipient of the Golden Lion Award for lifetime achievement at the Venice Film Festival, which continues through September 9.

The award adds to what is fast becoming one hot summer for the 70-year-old actor. His comedy Space Cowboys, has grossed more than $60 million, resting among the top five movies at the box office since its Aug. 4 debut.

He’s also been named as one of the five entertainers who will receive Kennedy Center Honors in December.

So, what’s next for the actor? Eastwood looked back at his 54-film career with a characteristically low-key comment as he prepared to accept the lifetime achievement award in Venice.

“Maybe it’s time to retire,” the two-time Oscar winner told reporters who asked him to sum up his film legacy.

Eastwood: ‘King of the Jungle’ Actress Sharon Stone gave Eastwood a Golden Lion for his career on Wednesday to mark the opening of the festival, followed by the European premiere of Eastwood’s “Space Cowboys” and a luxurious garden party for 1,000 guests.

“This award, the Golden Lion, goes to a man our industry thinks of as the King of the Jungle,” said Stone, resplendent in a sequined leopard print dress, as she handed Eastwood the lion-shaped statuette at a packed ceremony.

Festival chief Alberto Barbera said he had chosen to honor Eastwood because “He’s one of the last great icons of Hollywood cinema — he’s a total filmmaker, not only a popular and successful actor, well-known worldwide, but an original film maker who’s been quite underestimated.”

While Eastwood has traded in his cowboy gear and guns for golf clubs, his craggy mystique is being pored over by a new generation of fans, filmgoers and journalists.

“The mystique of Clint is that there is no mystique — you have to take him as he is,” said Bruce Ricker, the director of Eastwood documentary Out of the Shadows screening as part of the actor/director’s festival retrospective.

Eastwood’s Space Cowboys co-star Tommy Lee Jones has also told journalists he was more than pleased with Eastwood’s work behind the camera on the comedy, “He’s as a smooth a director as I’ve ever seen,” said Jones at the film’s press junket.

Call Him Daddy

For all he has achieved, Eastwood says each year he is still improving as an actor.

“Every experience you have, every day, it goes to making you a better actor, and every experience in every picture or every play goes to make you better [because] you know more about life,” Eastwood told reporters earlier this summer.

Eastwood is also still improving his skills as a father. He has a toddler and says he had a good reason for expanding his family this late in life, “I keep joking I didn’t have any grandchildren so I had my own grandchildren.”

He says having a new baby is “terrific,” especially at his age, “you can really appreciate it and you’re not obsessed by a lot of other things and I love it, I love family and kids and I’m much more attentive to it now than I ever was in my life.”

And he’s learning about a whole different form of entertainment, “I can tell you all about Barney… I know all the Scooby Doo tapes backwards and forwards.”

Return to Italy

Despite Eastwood’s honor at Venice, just two American films will compete for awards; Dr. T and the Women, a new movie by director Robert Altman and starring Richard Gere, Helen Hunt, Laura Dern and Liv Tyler, and Before the Night Falls, by U.S. artist Julian Schnabel and starring Johnny Depp.

Though it may seem incongruous that a festival better known for discovering the latest art house film would honor a Hollywood icon, Eastwood is seen in Europe as more of an auteur than an action hero.

And Italian film lovers feel a special bond with Clint since he got his first big break in a starring role in Sergio Leone’s 1964 spaghetti western classic A Fistful of Dollars.

“I’ve always been very proud of the fact I started my career in Italy,” he said.

In fact, when Eastwood’s Space Cowboys character, a former pilot, finally fulfills his dream of floating weightless in space, he looks down at the luminous blue and green earth and sees — the heel of Italy.

“It’s not a coincidence,” he said.

ABCNews.com’s Nancy Chandross and Reuters contributed to this report.