Sia has been criticized for casting her longtime muse Maddie Ziegler in the title role of her new movie, Music, because the character is non-verbal and on the autism spectrum, and Maddie is not. Sia now says casting Maddie was actually “nepotism.”
On the Australian TV show The Sunday Project, Sia, who said she considers herself to be Maddie’s “bonus mom,” explains, “I mean, it is ableism, I guess, as well, but it’s actually nepotism because I can’t do a project without her. I don’t want to. I wouldn’t make art if it didn’t include her.”
“She cried on the first day of rehearsals,” Sia says of Maddie. “And she was really scared and she said, ‘I don’t want anyone to think I’m making fun of them.’ And I bold-faced-ly said, ‘I won’t let that happen.’ And last week I realized I couldn’t really protect her from that. I thought I could. I realized there are some things I can’t protect her from.”
However, Sia points out that she’d sent the movie to be evaluated by the Child Mind Institute, which helps kids who have mental health and learning disorders, and it gave Maddie a “100% performance accuracy” rating.
In response to the criticism on social media, Sia has said that she researched autism for three years prior to making the movie, and did cast 13 people on the spectrum. She was also advised by people on the spectrum at all times.
In the movie, Kate Hudson plays Zu, a former drug dealer who unexpectedly becomes the guardian of her half-sister, Music, and struggles adjust to having a special needs relative. Music is expected to be released in February in the U.S.
By Andrea Dresdale
Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.