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French cheesed off as Puss in Boots gets the cream

January 14, 2012

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has provoked outrage in his homeland by awarding Mexican actress Salma Hayek the country’s most prestigious order of merit.

The 45-year-old actress from Veracruz will become a Knight of the Legion d’Honneur at a ceremony at the Elysee Palace in Paris later this year, ostensibly for “services to the Republic of France.”

Hayek is married to billionaire businessman Francois-Henri Pinault, who happens to be a close friend of President Sarkozy. His father was also honoured in the New Year’s list.

Established by Napoleon Boneparte in 1802, the Legion d’Honneur is awarded for “eminent merit” in civilian and military life.

Bemused commenters on the L’Express newspaper website said said honours should be awarded to worthier recipient and that Napoleon would be “turning in his grave.”

“Recognition has lost its value,” said former Senator Henri Torre. “We have appointed too many people who did not deserve to be nominated… we ridiculed the highest honour by naming anyone.”

Having first made her name in Robert Rodriguez’s 1995 “tortilla Western” Desperado, Hayek’s 2002 performance as troubled artist Frida Kahlo earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. She most recently lent her voice to “Kitty Softpaws” in animated comedy Puss in Boots, a spin-off from the popular Shrek franchise.

The photogenic movie star is also known for her humanitarian work, having campaigned on behalf of mothers in developing countries and drawn attention to the issue of violence against women.

Hayek is not the only Hollywood star to have received the award. Heavyweight actors Clint Eastwood, Robert De Niro and Robert Redford have all been decorated in previous years.

The Legion d’Honneur’s current Grand Master, Sarkozy ignited previous controversy in 2008, when he decorated the magistrate who granted his divorce from second wife Cecilia.

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