Actresses Jane Fonda, Elizabeth Moss and Barbra Streisand feted the star and heaped praise on him, recalling the projects they had worked with him on.

At the gala dinner, Redford's three-time co-star Fonda, said, "I was in love with him for every movie we did together... I don't think there's any other actor who's had a bigger influence on American cinema."

Mad Men star Moss, who appears alongside Redford in the upcoming film The Truth, added, "One of the greatest accomplishments of my career will always be that I got to act with you."

And Streisand, who starred with him in The Way We Were, took to the stage to present Redford with the award, remarking, "There's a lot going on behind those crystal-blue eyes... You never quite know what he's really thinking, and that makes him fascinating to watch on screen...

"People are their principles. Hubbell (Redford's character in the film) may not have believed that, but Robert Redford has lived every day of his life that way..."

Reacting to the honour, Redford said, "Forgive me. It's gonna take me a minute to come down from this sort of helium elevation I've been put into.

"I've never been one to look back... but I can't help but reflect on the journey that took me here tonight... To me, not taking a risk is taking a risk... For me, (winning is) really the climb up the mountain, not so much standing at the top, because at that point there's nowhere to go. Tonight, I feel very fortunate, and I thank you."

Previous recipients of the accolade include Martin Scorsese, Tom Hanks and Streisand.