Sia says backlash over Music movie led to mental health crisis and relapse

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Sia says backlash over Music movie led to mental health crisis and relapse
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Australian singer-songwriter Sia has revealed that the backlash over the 2021 movie Music — her feature directorial debut — preceded a particularly dark period of her life.

"I was suicidal and relapsed and went to rehab," Sia told the New York Times of dealing with the intense criticism she received for the musical film, including her decision to cast longtime collaborator (and non-autistic actress) Maddie Zielger as a child with autism.

Sia told the publication — which interviewed her as part of a larger profile on Kathy Griffin — that the comedian helped her get through the experience after the latter went through a similar wave of public scrutiny following an infamous 2017 photo of her holding a bloody mask meant to resemble former President Donald Trump's severed head. "She saved my life," Sia added.

A representative for Sia didn't immediately respond to EW's request for more information, though the hitmaker has long been open about her struggle with addiction. In 2013, she told Billboard she became "seriously addicted to Vicodin and Oxycodone" before realizing she was also an alcoholic. As recently as September 2018, Sia publicly celebrated eight years of sobriety.

Sia
Sia

Jason Merritt/Getty Images Sia says she attempted suicide after 'Music' movie backlash.

During the film's promotional cycle in early 2021, Sia defended her decision to cast Ziegler in the wake of criticism from the autism community, saying that the project was "completely" inspired by her "neuro atypical [sic] friend," and that she directed it with "nothing but love for him and his mother." She also said she cast 13 neuroatypical people throughout the film, which stars Kate Hudson as an eccentric, sober woman who unexpectedly becomes the guardian for her sister with autism (Ziegler).

"I actually tried working with a a [sic] beautiful young girl non verbal on the spectrum and she found it unpleasant and stressful," Sia wrote in an exchange with one Twitter user. "So that's why I cast Maddie."

Before she deactivated her Twitter account, Sia publicly apologized for the film, and further addressed scenes that reportedly involved the restraint of a character with autism, which she promised to remove "from all future printings" after listening "to the wrong people" advising her on the movie's content.

"I promise, have been listening. The motion picture Music will, moving forward, have this warning at the head of the movie," she wrote shortly after the film received Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture and for Hudson's lead performance. "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."

Additionally, Hudson commented on the controversy in a 2021 interview with Jimmy Kimmel: "The spectrum is so wide and should be approached with far more conversation and understanding [of] how can we be more representative, what are the best ways to do that," she said at the time. "We really want to tell the best stories, and when people feel upset about anything, it's our job to listen and encourage more conversation with other people who want to tell these stories."

Despite Music's success at the Golden Globes, the film grossed under $700,000 at the global box office and earned Razzie honors for Worst Director (Sia), Worst Actress (Hudson), and Worst Supporting Actress (Ziegler).

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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