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Sia defends casting Maddie Ziegler over real autistic actor in new movie: ‘It’s actually nepotism’


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Sia has once again addressed her decision to cast Maddie Ziegler in her new movie over a real autistic actor, stating it’s more nepotism than ableism. 

The Chandelier singer is gearing up for the release of her first ever feature-length movie, Music, which stars Maddie alongside Kate Hudson and Leslie Odom Jr. 

It follows an autistic teen Music (Ziegler) who ends up in the care of her drug-dealing half-sister Zu (Hudson). 

Maddie’s casting has sparked controversy with many arguing that Sia, full name Sia Furler, should have given the opportunity to an actor who is actually on the autism spectrum. 

Responding to the backlash, Sia said on Australia’s The Sunday Project: ‘I realised 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 her. 

‘I don’t want to. I wouldn’t make art if it didn’t include her.’ 

Maddie, 18, has worked with Sia, 45, for many years starring in several of her music videos including Chandelier and Elastic Heart. 

Sia refuses to make art without her ‘bonus daughter’ Maddie Ziegler (Picture: TEN)

Recalling how Maddie reacted on the first day on-set, Sia explained: ‘She cried on the first day of rehearsals and she was really scared and said, “I don’t want anyone to think that I’m making fun of them”. I bold-facedly said, “I won’t let that happen”. 

‘Last week I realised I couldn’t really protect her from that, which I thought I could. We sent it off to the Child Mind Institute and she received 100% as performance accuracy. I realise that there are some things I can’t protect her from as much as I try.’ 

Sia now considers herself Maddie’s ‘bonus mum’ and was thrilled after recently discovering the term. 

‘I was like, that’s who I am, that’s what I am. I haven’t been happier since,’ she said. 

The Cheap Thrills singer previously addressed the backlash over her new film and told Channel 10: ‘There is no way I could have used someone of Maddie’s level of functioning to play her. ‘I also needed a dancer, for [the character’s] imaginary life. 

‘It’s not a documentary. Kate isn’t a drug dealer and Leslie Odom Jr. [who plays Ebo] isn’t from Ghana.’ 

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