Sia is doubling down in her defense of casting Maddie Ziegler as an autistic teen in the singer’s upcoming feature directorial debut, “Music.” Sia made headlines in late November after firing back at the disabled community who accused the filmmaker of ableism for casting Ziegler as a character on the autism spectrum. Now in an interview with Australia’s 10 News First (via Yahoo Entertainment), Sia said it would’ve been impossible to cast an actor who matched the character’s “level of functioning” because the role demands a highly skilled dancer to pull off elaborate musical sequences where the title character gets lost in her imagination.
According to StudioCanal’s official synopsis, “Music” stars Ziegler and Kate Hudson as half-sisters whose lives are forced together when Hudson’s Zu becomes the sole legal guardian of Ziegler’s Music. “The musical drama explores the tenuous bonds that hold us together and imagines a world where those bonds can be strengthened in times of great challenge,” the synopsis adds. “Hamilton” Tony winner Leslie Odom Jr. stars as Ebo, Music’s neighbor and who acts as a caretaker for her.
Ziegler, who is neurotypical, is a trained dancer and frequent collaborator of Sia’s having starred in the acclaimed music videos for “Chandelier” and “Elastic Heart.” Sia told 10 News First her film “Music” is “not a documentary,” noting that Hudson is not a drug dealer like her character and Odom Jr. is not from Ghana like his character. The director said she had “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. Ziegler was cast because she was the best dancer 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.”
Sia’s defense arrived just as StudioCanal debuted the official trailer for the feature film, which shows off the many highly choreographed dance numbers that take place during the story. Sia wrote 10 original songs for “Music” and will be releasing an album to accompany the movie’s release. While no U.S. release date has been set, “Music” begins rolling out January 14 overseas. Watch the official trailer in the video below.