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Alejandro Iñarritu reflects on Robert Downey Jr. superhero spat

Alejandro Iñarritu still hurt by Robert Downey Jr. comment

Alejandro G. Iñárritu; Robert Downey Jr.
Photo: Stephane Cardinale-Corbis; Vivien Killilea (Getty Images)

We’re many long years into the superhero movie vs. cinema wars, so it’s understandable that some of the early battles may have been forgotten with time. In fact, the episode we’re here to talk about today took place pre-Martin Scorsese’s landmark New York Times op-ed, probably the most significant entry in the discourse to date.

No, today we travel back to 2014 when Alejandro G. Iñárritu, promoting a film about an actor who played a superhero, called superhero movies “cultural genocide.” “I don’t respond to those characters. They have been poison… because the audience is so overexposed to plot and explosions and shit that doesn’t mean nothing about the experience of being human,” he said.

By now, the audience is more than overexposed to this form of discourse, but remember that the Marvel actors have always tended to be prickly about the subject. In his own interview, MCU godfather Robert Downey Jr. claimed he “respects the heck out of” the Birdman director but snidely added, “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.”

It was an incredibly nasty thing to say, and Iñárritu isn’t completely over it. “It was like ‘Oh, you guys from your banana country,’” he recalls in a new interview with IndieWire. “If I were from Denmark or Sweden, I might be seen as philosophical, but when you’re Mexican and you say things, you’re pretentious.”

At the time, Downey’s publicist responded to the justifiable backlash by saying, “Taken in the proper context of the interview, it is intended to be, and is, complementary,” which comes across as equally condescending to the original comment. It may be more than half a decade later, but it’s not too late: do better, Iron Man!

Downey’s comments could not have helped what Iñárritu describes to IndieWire as “the feeling of not belonging here.” Even with his extraordinary success, he admits that within the immigrant experience, “Your roots and your identity start to get dissolved.” He reflects, “I may be too American for the Mexicans and too Mexican for the Americans. There’s a moment that I just feel…

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