His reaction follows accusations that Damien Chazelle's moon-landing film is unpatriotic, which have been led by Republican senator Marco Rubio.
The controversy was first sparked after a press conference at the Venice Film Festival on 29 August when star Ryan Gosling, who plays Neil Armstrong, said he believed the astronaut’s moonwalk “was widely regarded not as an American, but as a human achievement”.
He added: “I also think Neil was extremely humble, as were many of these astronauts, and time and time again he deferred the focus from himself to the 400,000 people who made the mission possible.
“He was reminding everyone that he was just the tip of the iceberg—and that’s not just to be humble, that’s also true. So I don’t think that Neil viewed himself as an American hero. From my interviews with his family and people that knew him, it was quite the opposite. And we wanted the film to reflect Neil.”
This observation was turned into a false report published by news websites including The Telegraph, Breitbart and Business Insider which claimed there were no American flags in the film. Rubio then picked the story up, despite not having seen the film himself.
“The American people paid for that mission, on rockets built by Americans, with American technology & carrying American astronauts. It wasn't a UN mission,” he tweeted, stirring up more outrage.
However, the Daily Beast’s Marlow Stern contradicted Rubio’s claim, writing: “Having actually seen the film, can confirm that while the physical act of planting the American flag into the moon is not portrayed, there are several shots of the American flag flying on the moon — including one long shot as Armstrong and co. disembark.”
Armstrong’s own sons contributed their own view on the row and said they approved of the film. They also confirmed Gosling’s comment, that their father did not see himself as an American hero.
“It's nonsense, it's just nonsense. The film itself can be interpreted as patriotic,” Clarke said, speaking at the Deauville Film Festival, where he was accepting a career honour. “It's just silly and naive I think. Of course, it celebrates one of the greatest acts of America and Americans and humanity and mankind.”
He added: “People look for conspiracy theories rather than looking for the truth.”
First Man has received rave reviews from critics and is being touted as an early Oscars contender. The Independent gave the film five stars and said: "Ryan Gosling is not exactly a stranger to playing introverted characters. But this was a special challenge: to play such a person while inspiring the audience to view him as still worthy of a form of adulation."
"This is a human story, remarkably well told," it added.
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