Female Singing

Sia Claims ‘Nepotism’ Is Why She Cast Maddie Ziegler Over Autistic Actor In New Film

Sia has recently received a lot of backlash from the public after announcing her new movie “Music,” which stars Maddie Ziegler, Sia’s longtime muse, as a teenager on the autism spectrum who can’t speak and uses music to communicate and understand the world. 

The decision to cast Ziegler, an individual who’s not on the autism spectrum at all, over an actor who actually is on the spectrum has caused Sia to receive a multitude of complaints and online backlash from individuals who claim the choice was ableist. Initially Sia defended the decision by claiming the character Ziegler is portraying is non-verbal, and typically individuals on the spectrum who are non-verbal would need to be specially accommodated on something as intimidating as a Hollywood set. 

However, these comments seemed to have caused an even bigger uproar online, especially for individuals who actually have autism. Alaina Leary is a journalist who’s on the spectrum herself and recently wrote an op-ed piece on this controversy

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“The implication is that a non-speaking autistic actor who might require accommodations on set is, in essence, incapable—thus reinforcing ableist ideas that already lock out such performers.”

The biggest issue people took with Sia’s casting decision is that she was further shutting the door on a pool of actors who are already denied opportunities simply because they’re autistic. This also speaks on a much larger issue in Hollywood of hiring already established actors to play roles that they don’t relate to at all in real life in order to seem more “palatable” to a general audience. 

We see it most often with the hiring of heterosexual actors to portray LGBT+ roles, however, the hiring of able-bodied or neurotypical actors to portray individuals with physical or mental disabilities has been a longstanding issue in Hollywood that clearly continues to shine bright; one of the biggest examples being Tom Hanks in the movie “Forrest Gump.” 

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During an interview with “The Sunday Project,” and Australian TV show, Sia defended the decision to cast Ziegler in the film by claiming nepotism as her reasoning. 

“I realized it wasn’t ableism. I mean, it is ableism I guess as well, but it’s actually nepotism because I can’t do a project without Ziegler. I don’t want to. I wouldn’t make art if it didn’t include her.”

Ziegler, 18, first became famous after appearing on reality TV show “Dance Moms” where Sia initially discovered her, and the two have been working on projects together ever since. Sia even claimed that Ziegler herself expressed multiple concerns on set over her role, telling Sia she was worried people would think she was “making fun” of people with autism, to which Sia replied that she “wouldn’t let that happen.” 

“Music” follows a young girl with autism who is raised by her drug-dealing older sister, played by Kate Hudson. Quickly after the trailer was released it became the center of a massive debate regarding the trend of hiring non-disabled actors in leading roles where a central aspect of the main characters journey is their disability. 

Sia did claim initially that she had tried to work with a young girl who was on the autism spectrum for the role, however, the girl found the experience to be “unpleasant and stressful” which led to Ziegler’s casting in the role.

Female Singer

Sia Drops First Song, ‘Hey Boy,’ From Her Directorial Debut Film ‘Music’ 

Sia has been a pioneer in the music industry for years now. Even if you don’t listen to her own personal music, you’ve definitely heard a song or two in your lifetime that was written by the artist. In fact, one of her most recent projects, ‘This Is Acting’ was a compilation of songs she wrote for other artists that had been rejected throughout her career that she thought deserved to see the light of day. 

Now, Sia has announced her eighth studio album titled “Music – Songs From And Inspired By The Motion Picture,” she also released the first song and video from the project titled “Hey Boy.” The film marks the first time Sia has held a full on directorial position for a feature length film beyond just her own music videos. 

The film, according to Sia, is about a young girl named Music who looks at the world in a very unique way. Music is played by Sia’s biggest muse Maddie Ziegler, who has been featured in most of Sia’s music videos throughout the past 5+ years. Kate Hudson and Leslie Odom Jr. also star in the film. 

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The video and trailer for the film have already been released along with the announcement that the movie will have a special limited theatrical release by IMAX in February 2021 pending the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The album in its entirety will be released in February 2021 through Sia’s label Atlantic. The song “Hey Boy,” which has already dropped, was written by Sia herself and Jesse Shatkin and Kamille; Shatkin also produced the track. 

Sia’s team described the film as a “wholly original exploration of the healing power of love and the importance of community. 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.” 

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The album is 14-tracks long and was written both specifically for the film itself, but was also inspired by the film as they made it. The singles “Together” and “Courage To Change” were both released by Sia earlier this year as a means of bringing awareness to climate change and the power the human race has to make a change, however, they were also released while Sia and her team were working on this film, and therefore will also be included within it. 

An accompanying original cast soundtrack album is scheduled to be released this winter as well so that all the individual voices that made the project possible have a moment to shine. Sia has been largely off the radar within the past few years as a solo artist at least. Her most recent solo album was the 2017 holiday collaboration album she created with Greg Kurstin “Everyday Is Christmas,” and most recently released musical project was a collaborative album with Labrinth and Diplo appropriately titled “L.S.D.” 

Now, fans are excited to see what the creative genius has in store for her next project and directorial debut. According to Sia it’s one of her favorite projects yet that she’s worked extremely hard on, so she’s excited for the world to finally see it.