Robert Downey Jr. has been called many things throughout his career but “racist” is a first, following his remarks about Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu.
In a video interview with The Guardian last week, Downey Jr. was asked about Iñarritu’s comments in which he likened superhero movies to a “cultural genocide.”
The “Iron Man” actor said that “for a man whose native tongue is Spanish, to be able to put together a phrase like ‘cultural genocide’ just speaks to how bright he is.”
Social media users were quick to accuse Downey Jr. of being racist for his remarks. One woman wrote that she "loved" him until this and hashtagged the word "racist." Another user tweeted at the actor to "keep your racist opinions to yourself."
In a statement from his publicist on Wednesday, the actor said he actually intended to be complimentary with his statement about Iñarritu.
Later in the interview with The Guardian Downey Jr. also said that he respects "the heck" out of Iñarritu and that "a certain level of scrutiny is good" when making films that are so popular — even if it's critical.
"You want to be responsible to the opportunity you've been given," he said.
The reporter also asked Downey Jr.'s "Avengers: Age of Ultron" co-stars similar questions about the glut of superhero movies on the market, though none of their responses were as inflammatory.
"Taken in the proper context of the interview, it is intended to be, and is, complimentary," said Downey Jr.'s publicist Alan Nierob.
Iñarritu's "Birdman," which won Oscars for best picture and best director, takes a darkly satirical look at blockbuster culture in its examination of a past-his-prime actor grasping for artistic authenticity. His film is centered on an actor (Michael Keaton) who cannot shake the voice of his superhero character, and pokes fun at many real-life actors who have participated in the genre, including Downey Jr.
In an interview with Deadline in October, Iñarritu said that although he "sometimes" enjoys superhero movies, he takes issue when they try to be too profound.
"They have been poison, this cultural genocide, because the audience is so overexposed to plot and explosions and (expletive) that doesn't mean nothing about the experience of being human," Iñarritu said.
A representative for Iñarritu did not immediately respond to request for comment.
The social media response echoed the backlash against Sean Penn months ago when the actor presented Iñarritu with his best picture Oscar by saying, "who gave this son of a bitch his green card?"
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.