In 1994, the figure skater, Nancy Kerrigan, made headlines when she was attacked by Tonya Harding and her boyfriend, Jeff Gillooly, over their extreme desire to win the Winter Olympics. Over two decades later, the Harding-Kerrigan scandal is revisited in the film, I, Tonya, which was released in 2017. The director, Craig Gillespie, and screenwriter, Steven Rogers, made it their goal to tell the tale as authentically as possible in the film. Check out the I, Tonya screen facts below.
The Triple Axel
In 1991, Tonya Harding was the first American woman to land a triple axel in competition. This moment was a significant milestone for Harding and a big moment in I, Tonya. Although, filming the triple axel was tricky considering that only a handful of people in the world can successfully execute the jump. “There has been only six women since Tonya Harding who have done a triple axel, even if there was one who was doing it today, she’d be training for the Olympics and couldn’t risk doing it for the film,” Tom Ackerly, one of the producers, stated. The jump was portrayed in the film using visual effects.
Short Filming Time
The entire movie was shot over 30 days. The part of Tonya’s mother, LaVona Golden, was shot in only 8 days. Allison Janney won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as LaVona.
Figure Skaters of the Past
Margot Robbie, who played Tonya Harding, was never a figure skater — but she was once a member of an amateur ice hockey league. Robbie had to train extensively for the role. In fact, she had met with the real Harding before filming started. They discussed difficulties Margot had during her ice skating sessions. According to Robbie, Tonya was really kind when trying to help her and even offered to teach her some techniques at a rink near Tonya’s residence. Unfortunately, Margot hadn’t brought her skates to the meeting so they weren’t able to train together.
On the other hand, Allison Janney, who played LaVona, seriously trained as a figure skater in childhood and adolescence. Unfortunately, when she was 17, she walked into a sliding glass door accidentally and severely injured her right leg. During an interview in 2014, Janney said her leg was almost amputated from the freak accident. “I lost like three-quarters of my blood. I lost an artery and cut tendon… I was in the hospital for like seven, eight weeks. I missed my first year of college. You know, and after that, of course, I didn’t really — I didn’t skate for a very long time,” Allison revealed.
In order to avoid damaging her hair, Margot Robbie wore wigs while acting as Harding. The hair team used beer to make her wigs look “crunchy.” Apparently, regular hair products didn’t produce the desired result which is why the team had to improvise. While Robbie understandably didn’t want to style her real hair in an 80s perm, she was a fan of the hair scrunchie look. She took several scrunchies throughout filming.
Many viewers enjoyed the comical scenes where LaVona had a bird perched on her shoulder. Allison Janney wasn’t a huge fan of birds which made it challenging for her to film these scenes. The production team “auditioned” three different birds before choosing one they nicknamed “Little Man.” They choose this specific fella because he was the least hyperactive.
Disapproval from the Opposition
One of the biggest characters in the film is Nancy Kerrigan. She stated in an interview related to her Dancing with the Stars appearance that she would not watch I, Tonya, regardless of not knowing how much of the film would feature her. “I already lived through that,” she said. However, Kerrigan’s former choreographer, Sarah Kawahara, helped Robbie train for her role in the film.
Writing the Script
Steven Rogers conducted interviews with Tonya Harding and her boyfriend, Jeff Gillooly. “Their stories were so wildly contradictory,” Rogers said. “I thought, ‘That’s my in.’ I’ll just show everybody’s point of view and then let the audience decide what they want to decide. Everyone’s trying to control the narrative… They’re all telling themselves what they need to know to be able to live with themselves.”
Allison Janney is a long time friend of Rogers. He’s written several scripts with her in mind for specific roles, but she was never cast in any of them until I, Tonya. Unfortunately, LaVona was never tracked down for an interview. Her portrayal in the film is built off of old documentary footage and creative licenses.