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Clint Eastwood is often seen by many of his fans as an embodiment of the heroic characters he portrays on screen. That, though, is the work of a screenwriter. Eastwood just handles the acting–or the directing. Defining heroism, he says, is more complex.

Eastwood is no fan of the misuse of the term. In a recent Mirror interview, Eastwood was critical of a generation of politically correct people who misuse the term “hero,” and strip the word of its true power.

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“…all the little boys in the class have to go home with a first place trophy. It’s all in this sort of politically correct thing where everyone has to win a prize,” Eastwood said.

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The comments came up in a conversation about Eastwood’s latest film, one he directed: “Sully: Miracle on the Hudson.” The film is a biopic about Air Force veteran and U.S. Airways pilot, Captain “Sully” Sullenberger.

In 2009 Sully landed a crippled airliner on the Hudson River. All 155 passengers on board survived what could well have killed all of them, and others on the ground.

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Sully’s actions, Eastwood says, make him a hero. “The use of the word ‘hero’ is a little bit overdone but I don’t think so in Sully’s case. He went extra and beyond what was expected.”

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Eastwood’s comments about Sully are even more interesting now, after Tom Hanks (who is the star of “Sully: Miracle on the Hudson”) received the Medal of Freedom from President Obama.

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There were others on the list, too. Awards were given to Diana Ross, Ellen DeGeneres, Robert De Niro, Michael Jordan and Bruce Springsteen.

“The textbook definition of a hero is someone who voluntarily puts themselves in harm’s way for the betterment of others,” Tom Hanks said. I’m a p**sy, man. I’m an actor. I haven’t done anything that’s near death. Once I had to swim in the open ocean in Cast Away, oh jeepers. Terrible. Crazy. I’ve never experienced anything remotely like this. There’s four roles for us in real life. You can be a hero, villain, coward or bystander. I’m the bystander.”

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It looks like Hanks and Eastwood agree on their definitions of heroism. The Medal of Freedom doesn’t have heroism as a prerequisite, though. It is an award given to those who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

Hanks is clearly in that camp. Eastwood, too.