Bernardo Bertolucci has attributed a row over how an actress was treated while filming Last Tango in Paris to "a ridiculous misunderstanding".
Outrage has flared after a video of the director speaking in 2013 re-emerged.
In it, he admitted he did not fully prepare Maria Schneider before shooting the infamous "butter scene" because he wanted her to feel real "humiliation".
He has now insisted she knew about the scene in advance and that her "rape" by Marlon Brando's Paul was simulated.
The scene from Bertolucci's 1972 film sees Brando's character use butter as a lubricant while forcing himself upon Schneider's Jeanne.
In a 2007 interview, Schneider said she had felt "humiliated" and "a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci".
The actress, who died in 2011, blamed the film, the reaction and her instant fame for her subsequent drug abuse and suicide attempts.
In the 2013 video that reignited the controversy, Bertolucci said he and Brando came up with the idea of using butter on the morning the scene was shot.
He said he had been "in a way horrible to Maria because I didn't tell her what was going on, because I wanted her reaction as a girl, not as an actress".
The video shows him admitting he felt "guilty" but that he did "not regret" how he went about filming the scene.
Schneider "hated me for her whole life" as a result, he continued.
Evan Rachel Wood was among those to express outrage at his comments, calling the situation "heartbreaking and outrageous".
"The 2 of them are very sick individuals to think that was ok," the Westworld actress wrote.
"To all the people that love this film - you're watching a 19yr old get raped by a 48yr old man," actress Jessica Chastain tweeted. "The director planned her attack. I feel sick."
"I will never look at this film, Bertolucci or Brando the same way again," wrote Captain America star Chris Evans. "This is beyond disgusting. I feel rage."
Schneider 'not upset by violence'
In a statement on Monday, the 76-year-old director said he wanted "for the very last time to clear up a ridiculous misunderstanding".
"We wanted her spontaneous reaction to this improper use [of the butter]," he said. "The misunderstanding arises from this.
"People thought, and think, that Maria was not informed of the violence she was to suffer. False!
"Maria knew everything because she had read the script, in which it was all described. The only new thing was the idea of the butter.
"It was this, I learned many years later, that upset Maria, and not the violence that was in the scene and was envisaged in the script of the film."
'I was crying real tears'
In her 2007 interview, Schneider said the scene in question "wasn't in the original script".
"The truth is it was Marlon who came up with the idea," she told the Daily Mail. "They only told me about it before we had to film the scene and I was so angry.
"I should have called my agent or had my lawyer come to the set because you can't force someone to do something that isn't in the script, but at the time, I didn't know that.
"Marlon said to me: 'Maria, don't worry, it's just a movie,' but during the scene, even though what Marlon was doing wasn't real, I was crying real tears."
Last Tango in Paris was banned in Italy and court cases sought its censorship in several other countries, including the UK and US.