Tim Burton, master of macabre movies like Corpse Bride and Edward Scissorhands, was honored with a career award at the Venice film festival on Wednesday.
Organizers of the festival called Burton "one of America's bravest, most visionary and innovative film-makers".
"I've been to this festival a few times, and each time I've come here I've just had this very special feeling about it," the 49-year-old, sporting his trademark dark glasses, told Reuters in an interview in Venice.
"You grow up in Hollywood and that whole scenario and what you feel here is that there is just passion about movies. So that's what makes it special to me -- it's not about business, it's not about finance, it's about just the love of movies."
Burton was handed a Golden Lion lifetime achievement award by Johnny Depp, star of many of his films, at a glitzy red carpet ceremony.
"He is a rare breed in today's cinema," said Depp, wearing a white tuxedo. "Beyond that he is a true original, a true artist, a true auteur. He's my favorite director and friend."
Burton, watched by his partner and actress Helena Bonham Carter, said the award would be "an inspiration to me forever".
Earlier in the day at a press conference, he had joked that it compared favorably to the famous Oscar statuette, which he has yet to win. "It's actually a lot more beautiful-looking thing than a bald, naked man," he said.
Critical acclaim, commercial succes
Burton mixes critical acclaim, for titles such as ghoulish animation film Corpse Bride and Big Fish, with box office hits that make him a major Hollywood player.
In 2005, the same year Corpse Bride was released, he made Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, again starring Depp, and grossed $475 million worldwide. His Batman, made 16 years earlier, earned $411 million in global ticket sales, according to movie tracking Web site www.boxofficemojo.com.
Wednesday was dubbed Tim Burton's Day on the Lido, with the world premiere of the 3-D version of his 1993 film The Nightmare before Christmas, an animated musical.
There was also a screening of early clips from his next project, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, an adaptation of the hit Stephen Sondheim musical starring Depp as the barber seeking bloody revenge for his wrongful punishment.
The movie also stars Bonham Carter, with whom he has worked on several movies. The couple have one child together and are expecting a second.
Burton's dark but often funny films have been described as fairy tales for adults although his offbeat creatures are also popular with children.
Asked what kind of books and stories triggered his imagination as a child, he said: "Just in terms of fairy-tales, I didn't really read any, in the sense that monster movies and films were sort of fairy tales for me."