Sia has said that she was “suicidal” following the backlash to her 2021 film Music.
The Australian singer-songwriter made her directorial debut with the movie, which stars Maddie Ziegler as a nonverbal autistic teenager called Music.
Sia courted controversy over her decision to cast Ziegler, who is not on the autism spectrum. An online petition was launched, aiming to cancel the premiere due to the film’s “inaccurate and hurtful betrayal of the [autistic] community” and the inclusion of scenes in which the titular character is restrained.
Addressing the widespread criticism, Sia apologised to the community and said that a disclaimer would appear before future screenings of Music. “I promise, have been listening,” she wrote, adding that her research “was clearly not thorough enough, not wide enough”.
Speaking to The New York Times as part of a new profile of US comic Kathy Griffin, Sia explained: “I was suicidal and relapsed and went to rehab.”
She went on to say that Griffin “saved my life” during that time.
Last February, Kate Hudson – who portrays Music’s half-sister Zu in Music – said there was “an important conversation to have – not just about this movie, but as a whole about representation”.
The warning displayed at the beginning of the film reads: “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.”
In a one-star review of the film, NME said: “This is all cut with pastel-toned dream-like dance routines which hit the midpoint between sugary Katy Perry pop confection and 1930s Busby Berkeley showstopper.
“The Sia-penned soundtrack is sung largely by Hudson, whose decent vocals are perhaps the film’s saving grace, but it’s still not nearly enough to make Music a sound proposition.”
Despite significant backlash from viewers and critics alike, Music was nominated for two Golden Globes last year: Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Best Actress In A Motion Picture (Kate Hudson).