Sia is pushing back on criticism that her film “Music” is offensive to disabled people and those on the autism spectrum after she was called out for casting able-bodied actress Maddie Ziegler as a teenager with special needs.
Sia on Twitter on Friday morning responded to numerous online critics of the first trailer for “Music,” who said among other things that her film excluded disabled actors, that it was an example of “cripping up” by casting Ziegler in the lead role and that she didn’t do her research or failed to consult the disabled community.
“Duh. I spent three f—ing years researching. I think that’s why I’m so f—ing bummed,” the singer turned director said in a tweet. “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.”
“Music” is Sia’s feature directorial debut and stars Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr. and Ziegler as the title character Music, and the Grammy nominee also announced a new album of 10 original tracks and dropped a new song along with the film that are all depicted in fantastical musical sequences and performed by the cast. The film will open in a limited IMAX special release in February.
The singer explained that she never defined Ziegler’s character Music as “disabled” but as having “special abilities,” saying the character is based on her neuroatypical friend. She even explained why she made the choice to cast Ziegler in the part and explained that she first tried working with a girl on the spectrum.
“I actually tried working with a a beautiful young girl non verbal on the spectrum and she found it unpleasant and stressful. So that’s why I cast Maddie,” Sia said. “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.”
She continued: “I’m so confused. The character is based completely on my neuro atypical friend. He found it too stressful being non verbal, and I made this movie with nothing but love for him and his mother…Mocking is the very last thing either Maddie or I wanted to be so misunderstood. Please watch it before you judge it.”
Some online also criticized Sia for working with a particular autism advocacy group called Autism Speaks. She explained that the organization came aboard the project long after the film was finished but that she “had no idea it was such a polarizing group.”
You can see a trailer for “Music” above, and see her responses on Twitter below: