LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Robert Downey Jr. intended to be complimentary with a statement about Mexican-born director Alejandro Inarritu that some have interpreted as racist, the actor's publicist said Wednesday.
Inarritu, while promoting "Birdman" in October, likened superhero movies to a "cultural genocide."
Downey Jr. said in a video interview last week 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."
Various Twitter users accused Downey Jr. of being racist in 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."
Downey Jr. also said that he respects "the heck" out of Inarritu in the interview with The Guardian. Later, he remarked, too, that "a certain level of scrutiny is good," when making films that are so popular -- especially among children -- 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.
Inarritu'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 trade publication Deadline in October, Inarritu 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," Inarritu said.
A representative for Inarritu did not immediately respond to request for comment.
The social media response echoed the backlash against Sean Penn months ago when the actor presented Inarritu with his best picture Oscar by saying, "who gave this son of a bitch his green card?"
Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr