- Sia recently told an outlet, "I was suicidal and relapsed and went to rehab"
- Sia faced heavy criticism over her decision to cast neurotypical actor and dancer Maddie Ziegler
- Several actors with autism spoke out against the movie in an interview
'Cheap Thrills' singer Sia recently revealed that she had a tough time dealing with the backlash she received for her directorial debut 'Music', so much so that she felt "suicidal" and "went to rehab". As per Variety, the hitmaker as a part of a profile on comedian Kathy Griffin recently told The New York Times that she entered rehab after coming under fire for not casting an autistic actor for the lead role in the movie. Sia recently told the outlet as part of this week's Kathy Griffin profile, "I was suicidal and relapsed and went to rehab."
The musician credited Griffin for helping her recover after Griffin convinced her to go out to a Hollywood restaurant last fall. The dinner date was strategic, as Griffin knew the duo would be captured by paparazzi at the restaurant. The goal was to generate healthier media buzz months after the outrage.
As Sia said, "She saved my life." Sia faced heavy criticism over her decision to cast neurotypical actor and dancer Maddie Ziegler in the lead role of Music Gamble, a nonverbal autistic teenage girl. Ziegler and Sia had previously worked together on the singer's videos for 'Chandelier' and 'Elastic Heart'.
Several members of the autism community condemned 'Music' over Zeigler's casting and the portrayal of autism in the movie. The backlash against the film intensified after it earned two 2021 Golden Globe nominations. The film was nominated for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, and for Best Actress - Motion Picture Comedy or Musical for Kate Hudson, but won neither.
Several actors with autism spoke out against the movie in an interview, with performer Ashley Wool calling Sia's movie "something that's doing active harm to people."
Actor Chloe Hayden added that Sia's casting is "undermining autistic people's capabilities and making us out to be infants. Second, if your film is about inclusion, but you're not making the actual film set inclusive, it completely belittles the entire point."
Sia originally defended Ziegler's casting ahead of the film's release, telling Australia's 10 News First that she "actually tried working with a beautiful young girl nonverbal on the spectrum" but "found it unpleasant and stressful" because the character as written was too demanding.
In the film, Music is at the centre of elaborate fantastical dance sequences, which is why Sia believed Ziegler was the right actor for the job. "The character is based completely on my neuro-atypical friend," Sia added.
"He found it too stressful being nonverbal, and I made this movie with nothing but love for him and his mother." Following the film's Golden Globe nominations in February 2021, Sia announced the movie would be released with a warning. "I promise [I] have been listening," she wrote on Twitter.
She added, "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 with meltdown safety."
Sia then tweeted, "I'm sorry," an apology presumably aimed at the members of the autism community who took issue with her film. Meanwhile, 'Music' star Kate Hudson told Jimmy Kimmel around the same time that the movie was generating an "important conversation to have." "I think when people see the film, you know that they will see the amount of love and sensitivity that was put into it," Hudson said.
Hudson added, "When I hear that anybody feels left out, I feel terrible...It's not a sound bite conversation. It's an ongoing important dialogue to be had about neurotypical actors portraying neurodivergent characters...It should be a continuous conversation."
In 'Music', Hudson played the role of Zu, a newly sober drug dealer who becomes the guardian of her autistic half-sister Music (Ziegler) after the death of her grandmother. Zu struggles to take care of Music but is helped by their neighbour Ebo (Leslie Odom Jr.).