Depp, 50, called the 91-year-old actor "a true gentleman" and "a national treasure" in his speech on Saturday. The two have worked together on films like "Sleepy Hollow" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."
“It is my great honor to bestow this award to a very great man. He’s inspired me like he has so many, he’s fascinated me like he has so many," Depp told the audience. "He’s been a wonderful individual and over the years I’ve had the pleasure of working with him and it has been a childhood dream come true."
"Johnny, I don't know what to say," Lee said, choked up and with tears in his eyes. "I didn't know you were going to be here. I must try and pull myself together."
Depp snuck into the event -- having told Lee that he wouldn't be able to attend the ceremony.
“Somebody told me Johnny wouldn’t be able to come tonight as he was somewhere else in Europe,” Lee explained.
"He means an enormous amount to me. He is one of very few young actors on screen today who's truly a star," he continued. "Everything he does has a meaning. He's a joy to work with, an actor's dream and certainly a director's dream. I could go on a long time but I'd probably embarrass him."
Lee also discussed his feelings about his long-lasting career in show business, having starred in hundreds of films.
“When I take a look back, and its a long one, 67 years, at the characters I’ve played I get a truly strange feeling they were all played by somebody else, and not by me," he said.
"And there are a few occasions when it has been the case I wish it had," he quipped.