Sia has apologized to the autistic community for her directorial debut “Music” after the film generated backlash for its casting of neurotypical actor Maddie Ziegler as a non-verbal autistic person. The pop star says she will also add a warning label to the front of the film about scenes that depict physical restraint.
Hours after “Music” picked up two Golden Globe nominations, including for Best Actress Kate Hudson, Sia apologized on Twitter for the controversial film, saying she has “been listening,” and subsequently deactivated her account.
“I promise, have been listening,” Sia wrote on Twitter (via screen captured tweets on Variety) The motion picture ‘Music’ will, moving forward, have this warning at the head of the movie: ‘Music’ in no way condones or recommends the use of restraint on autistic people. There are autistic occupational therapists that specialize in sensory processing who can be consulted to explain safe ways to provide proprioceptive, deep-pressure feedback to help w meltdown safety.”
Sia then tweeted an apology saying “I’m sorry” and plans to remove the scenes depicting restraint from future printings of “Music.”
“I listened to the wrong people and that is my responsibility, my research was clearly not thorough enough, not wide enough,” she wrote.
When the film’s trailer debuted in November, Sia got into a debate with autism advocates who said “Music” and the casting of Ziegler was an example of “cripping up.” Sia pushed back on accusations that she didn’t consult the disabled community and defended casting Ziegler for the particular role of the title character “Music.”
“Duh. I spent three f–ing years researching. I think that’s why I’m so f–ing bummed,” she previously said. “I cast thirteen neuroatypical people, three trans folk, and not as f–ing prostitutes or drug addicts but as doctors, nurses and singers. F–ing sad nobody’s even seen the dang movie. My heart has always been in the right place.”
Online critics also pushed back on the idea that Sia described Music not as “disabled” but as someone with “special needs,” and others criticized Sia for working with a particular autism advocacy group called Autism Speaks.
“I actually tried working with a beautiful young girl non verbal on the spectrum and she found it unpleasant and stressful. So that’s why I cast Maddie,” Sia previously explained. “I’ve never referred to Music as disabled. Special abilities is what I’ve always said, and casting someone at her level of functioning was cruel, not kind, so I made the executive decision that we would do our best to lovingly represent the community.”
“Music” is due to be released on Feb. 12 and stars Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr. and Ziegler. It’s a blend of drama and fantastical musical sequences performed by the cast and features 10 original tracks from the Grammy-nominated singer.