Medal-Worthy Movie Facts And Behind The Scenes Info Of I, Tonya

Showcasing the life and career of former US figure skater Tonya Harding, I, Tonya, is a fourth wall-eliminating biopic with ice-breaking behind-the-scenes tidbits, including the “facts” about the infamous 1994 attack on Nancy Kerrigan.

From Margot Robbie’s injury and the casting of a certain parakeet to the real Harding’s take on the film and her character, here are some gold medal-winning facts about the award-winning movie I, Tonya.

Steven Rogers Found Tonya Harding At A Motel 6

After watching a skating documentary, Steven Rogers was interested in writing a film revolving around Tonya Harding. It wasn’t after receiving Harding’s contact information to discuss the project that he made it his mission to get the film approved.

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Calling Harding’s agent’s number listed on her website, the contact went straight to a Motel 6! It was all Rogers needed to know he had to move forward with his idea.

A Two-Time Emmy Award-Winning Choreographer Was Hired

The film I, Tonya, pretty much revolves around figure skating, leading production to hire Sarah Kawahara, a talented Canadian skater with an impressive resume. Not only did she win an Emmy for her choreography but also for the opening and closing Olympic Ceremonies in 2002.

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On top of that, Kawahara also worked with Nancy Kerrigan!

Director Craig Gillespie Worked With Nancy Kerrigan Before

Learning Nancy Kerrigan’s side of the infamous 1994 attack wasn’t the first time director Craig Gillespie collaborated with the former Olympian. A year before the attack, Kerrigan starred in a Campbell’s Soup commercial, a project led by Gillespie.

Winter Olympics - Lillehammer 94 - Figure Skating - Ladies' Singles - Medal Ceremony
Adam Butler/PA Images via Getty Images
Adam Butler/PA Images via Getty Images

The commercial advertised that eating soup gives a person the strength to check a hockey player!

The Role Of LaVona Golden Was Written For Allison Janney

When writing the role of Tonya Harding’s mother LaVona Golden, screenwriter Steven Rogers had one person in mind for the part, Allison Janney. While the other actors had their real-life counterparts to interview, LaVona was hard to track down.

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Janney accomplished her Academy Award-winning performance by watching some of LaVona’s old interviews.

Allison Janney Had Olympic Ambitions

Allison Janney grew up not wanting to be an Academy Award-winning actress but an Olympian. As a teenager, Janney was a competitive figure skater and had dreams of winning gold.

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Sadly, an accident that involved a glass door resulted in Janney hurting her leg badly enough that she was forced to give up competing.

Cheap Beer Was The Secret To Margot Robbie’s Hair

Portraying a skater in the 90s, hair designer Adruitha Lee had her work cut out for her. During the filming of I, Tonya, Lee constructed numerous wigs for Margot Robbie to wear as Tonya Harding.

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To get the extra crunchy look, Lee used cheap beer! During an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, she said, “You’re not going to get that bang to stand up like that with just mousse.”

Three Different Birds Auditioned

One of the quirkiest characters in I, Tonya, is arguably the parakeet that stays perched on top of Allison Janney’s shoulder. But even the bird had to audition! According to Janney, three different parakeets auditioned for the role.

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During an interview with Huffington Post, Janney said, “I tried a couple of birds, and I picked Little Man…”

Margot Robbie Was Injured Throughout The Production

While filming I, Tonya, Margot Robbie was very injured, going through the production with a herniated disc in her neck. Because she was a producer on the movie, Robbie knew she had to tough it out.

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During a SAG-AFTRA interview, Robbie said, “Because I was a producer, I was like, ‘We can’t afford that. Just shoot me up with some steroids, and let’s keep going.” She received an MRI at the end of each week to ensure she could skate.

Tonya Harding Doesn’t Curse Like A Sailor

In the film, I, Tonya, Margot Robbie portrays Tonya Harding as someone who throws cuss words out every five seconds. According to Harding, while it was great for the film, it isn’t how she speaks in real life.

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During an interview, Harding said, “I mean, the movie portrayed me as this person who cussed every 10 seconds, and I don’t cuss like that.”

The Film Is Based On The True Stories Lack Of Truth

When Steven Rogers interviewed Tonya Harding and her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly’s recollection of the 1994 attack on Nancy Kerrigan, he couldn’t help but notice how different their stories were. The lack of truth sparked his idea to tell each side of the story.

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During an interview, Rogers said, “everyone’s trying to control the narrativeā€¦ They’re all telling themselves what they need to know to be able to live with themselves.”

Margot Robbie Didn’t Know The Movie Was Based On Real Events

During her first read-through, Margot Robbie had no idea the production was based on true events. She thought the story was nothing more than a fictionalized version of the 1992 Olympics, a rivalry, and an attack.

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Born in Australia, it makes sense that Robbie didn’t know about the drama surrounding Harding and Kerrigan!

The Iconic Triple Axel Was CGI

One of Tonya Harding’s claims to fame was when she landed a triple axel in a competition, the first American woman to do so. An extremely difficult trick, Margot Robbie was not able to land the trick on film, regardless of her hours of training.

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Instead, the actress completed the choreography, and the triple axel was completed using CGI.

Only A Little Bit Of Harding’s Life Was In The Movie

According to Tonya Harding, while the movie was “magnificent,” it only showed bits and pieces of what her life off the ice was really like, i.e., her home life and that with her former husband.

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During an interview, Harding said, “people don’t understand that what you guys see in the movie is nothing. That was the smallest little bits and pieces.”

Jeff Gillooly Didn’t Want To Make A Profit On Anything

Even though his story of the 1994 attack on Nancy Kerrigan differs from his ex-wife’s account, Jeff Gillooly was willing to tell his side of the story. Even so, he was adamant about not making a profit over the ordeal since he ruined Harding’s career.

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According to screenwriter Steven Rogers, “What’s curious about Jeff is that he refused to take any money for life rights, for his interview, for anything. He doesn’t want to profit from it.”

Margot Robbie Said Tonya Harding Is Great

Performing onscreen as a real-life person can’t be easy. But, according to Margot Robbie, Tonya Harding had nothing but nice things to say about the actress’s performance.

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Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for NEON
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for NEON

During an interview, Robbie spoke of Harding, saying, “Really, really amazing. She was very complimentary about what we pulled off, and she was really kind about my skating even though I’m nowhere near as good as I should be. Yeah, she was great.”

The Goal: Change Peoples Perspective On Tonya Harding

Before filming, screenwriter Steven Roger conducted six hours’ worth of interviews with Tonya Harding, ensuring he had her side of the story. His goal was to switch the narrative and make the audience empathize with her.

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During an interview, Rogers said, “When I set out to make the film, she’s been such a villain and a punchline in our society for so long, and I loved that challenge to just change that perspective.”

Tonya Harding Was Nervous To Watch The Film

Even though she was a consultant on the film, Tonya Harding was very nervous about watching the final project. To her, watching everything was dredging up something she just wanted to forget ever happened.

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It took some convincing from her manager to watch the film. After watching the movie, Harding wasn’t always happy with how they portrayed her character.

Harding Wanted Nothing To Do With The Project

When I, Tonya, screenwriter Steven Rogers first reached out to Tonya Harding regarding his movie idea, she didn’t want to go through with it.

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During an interview, Harding said, “I was grateful that he actually came to us first, but I wasn’t going to do it. I was like, “I don’t want to go through this again. I’ve been through enough, and I have my son now.”

Tonya Harding Loved Allison Janney’s Performance

While Tonya Harding loved Margot Robbie’s performance, there was one that she liked more, Allison Janney. In the film, Janney portrays Harding’s mom, LaVona Golden. According to Harding, the actress hit the nail right on the head!

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During an interview, Harding said, “Allison Janney, wow, she couldn’t have hit my mother on the head any better. And it was hilarious.”

Steven Rogers Paid Tonya Harding Out Of His Own Pocket

When Steven Rogers originally went to speak with Tonya Harding about making I, Tonya, he did something filmmakers are never supposed to do, pay someone with money out of their own pocket.

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He had no studio yet and no one actually working on the film. Thankfully, his initial investment paid off!