Sia says Music movie will include warning label, cuts controversial restraint scenes
Sia has reportedly altered her Kate Hudson-starring directorial debut — which tells the story of an autistic girl played by the singer's non-disabled frequent collaborator, Maddie Ziegler — in the wake of criticism from the autism community.
According to multiple outlets citing since-deleted tweets by the musician-turned-filmmaker, Sia has recut the upcoming movie Music to remove alleged scenes showing restraint being used on Ziegler's titular character, and will add a warning label to the beginning of the project for all public showings.
"I promise, have been listening. The motion picture MUSIC will, moving forward, have this warning at the head of the movie," Sia reportedly tweeted Wednesday, shortly after the film received Golden Globe nods for Best Picture and Hudson, later adding the warning's text: "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."
Before deactivating her Twitter account, Sia further explained that she plans "to remove the restraint scenes from all future printings" after listening "to the wrong people" advising her on the film. "That is my responsibility, my research was clearly not thorough enough, not wide enough."
She finished by tweeting "I'm sorry," seemingly referencing the backlash she initially received after the film's first trailer depicted Ziegler mimicking the physicality of a person with autism.
Following the film's initial trailer debut last November, Sia hit back at critics on social media, many of whom accused her of ableism for casting Ziegler instead of an autistic performer. She claimed that the story — about an autistic teen, Music, in the care of her aimless half-sister, Zu (Hudson), a freshly sober drug dealer — was "completely" inspired by her "neuro atypical [sic] friend" who "found it too stressful being non verbal, and I made this movie with nothing but love for him and his mother," and noted that she cast 13 neuroatypical people throughout the film.
"My character was pretty low functioning and after attempting a few actors on the spectrum they suggested I use Maddie," Sia continued, in response to one user. In a separate response, she wrote, "I actually tried working with a a [sic] beautiful young girl non verbal on the spectrum and she found it unpleasant and stressful. So that's why I cast Maddie."
According to Sia, the organization Autism Speaks joined Music "long after the film was finished, four years in fact." However, Zoe Gross, director of operations at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, previously wrote in an email to EW that, of the hesitations the group has about the project, the most prominent is "the fact that the filmmakers partnered with Autism Speaks (an organization without autistic leadership whose advocacy priorities are in opposition to the autistic community) instead of with autistic-led organizations." A representative for Autism Speaks told EW in November that the organization "was not involved in the casting or production of the film, Music. Representation matters, and we believe autistic actors should always be given opportunities to play autistic characters."
As of Thursday morning, Sia's Instagram account remains active, with the most recent post being an expression of gratitude to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for giving the film — which also stars Leslie Odom, Jr., Mary Kay Place, and Juliette Lewis — two nominations.
Representatives for Sia and Music did not immediately respond to EW's request for confirmation. The film is currently set for release as an IMAX event on Feb. 10, followed by a VOD release on Feb. 12.