Sia receives backlash for casting Maddie Ziegler as autistic lead in new film

"You should know better than to allow able bodied & neurotypical to represent the disabled community"

Sia has received backlash online for casting a neurotypical actor as the autistic lead in her upcoming new film, Music.

The singer’s directorial debut follows Music, a young girl with nonverbal autism, who finds herself in the care of her older half-sister, the newly sober Zu (played by Kate Hudson).

A press release describes the film as “a wholly original exploration of the healing power of love and the importance of community.”


It continued: “Sia’s music is integral to the story of the film as the characters examine the fragile bonds that hold us together and, through fantastical musical sequences, imagine a world where those bonds can be strengthened in times of great challenge.”

The first trailer for the film arrived on Thursday (November 19) and the response has seen many unhappy with Sia’s decision to cast her frequent collaborator Maddie Ziegler as Music rather than someone who actually has autism.

Some social media users accused Sia of ableism and “cripping up” (acting like you have a disability), assuming Sia had failed to consult anyone with lived experience of autism about her movie.

Denying the claims, Sia stated that she based Music’s character on an autistic friend of hers, and that she had a pair of neuroatypical consultants around her at all times.

She also explained that she originally attempted to cast someone on the spectrum, but because of the rapid shooting schedule and the level of functionality of the character, she eventually decided to go with Ziegler.


“I actually tried working with a beautiful young girl non verbal on the spectrum and she found it unpleasant and stressful,” Sia tweeted. “So that’s why I cast Maddie.”

She added that she had “cast thirteen neuroatypical people, three trans folk, and not as fucking prostitutes or drug addicts but as doctors, nurses and singers. Fucking sad nobody’s even seen the dang movie. My heart has always been in the right place.”

In reply to a tweet that accused Sia’s Twitter thread of “really encapsulat[ing] the whole problem”, she wrote: “The movie is both a love letter to caregivers and to the autism community. I have my own unique view of the community, and felt it is underrepresented and compelled to make it. If that makes me a shit I’m a shit, but my intentions are awesome.”

One Twitter user, who stated that they were an autistic actor, said: “Several autistic actors, myself included, responded to these tweets. We all said we could have acted in it on short notice. These excuses are just that- excuses. The fact of the matter is zero effort was made to include anyone who is actually autistic.”

Sia replied: “Maybe you’re just a bad actor.”

Evidently frustrated by the backlash, Sia at one point tweeted: “Grrrrrrrrrr. Fuckity fuck why don’t you watch my film before you judge it? FURY.”

Music is set to be released in February 2021, along with its soundtrack, which features previously revealed singles ‘Together’, ‘Courage to Change’, and ‘Hey Boy’.

Earlier this year, Sia revealed that she “stepped in” when disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein invited dancer and child star Maddie Ziegler to fly with him on his private plane.

Weinstein, who is now serving a 23-year prison sentence for sexual assault and rape in the third degree, is thought to have offered the invitation to Ziegler before he was outed as a predator.

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