One of the more refreshing pieces of cinema here at the Toronto Film Festival among the gravitas, and one of the more intriguing titles up for sale is I, Tonya, the comedy-drama that Margot Robbie produced and stars in as fallen Olympian figure skater Tonya Harding.
Last night’s premiere drew great laughs and applause with many buyers in attendance. If you thought Robbie could get ugly as the Joker’s g.f. Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad, she takes grit to another level in I, Tonya as she escapes onscreen into Harding’s hard-nailed, trailer trash punk persona. Then there’s Allison Janney who does a complete 180 from her Emmy-winning turn on CBS’ Mom and steals the show playing a different kind of mom as Tonya’s chain-smoking, abusive, hysterically outspoken, fur-wearing matriarch LaVona.
“I love one of the first things that (screenwriter) Steven (Rogers) told me about this part when he said he wrote it for me was that I get to play this woman who lives in a trailer basically, wears a fur coat, and has a bird on her shoulder, I was like ‘I’m in! I’m in!’ I want to play this woman,” says Janney.
The tabloid incident about Harding, her husband Jeff Gillooly and their flunkies who conspired to injure rival figure skater Nancy Kerrigan gets more than the Lifetime treatment in I, Tonya as we see Harding stripped down. She battled against a harsh upbringing, a violent husband and mother, and snobby skating judges, all to ensure that her skating talent shined. To this day, the two-time Olympian and two-time Skate America champion stands as the first female skater, and second overall, to complete the feat of a triple axel jump in competition.
In a little more than a year, Robbie and the pic’s producers Tom Ackerley and Bryan Unkeless got Steven Rogers screenplay for I, Tonya up and running and here to TIFF, a story that Deadline broke exclusively back in March of last year. In our above interview, the cast and creators breakdown their process. Rogers wrote his screenplay based off interviews with Harding and Gillooly, while director Craig Gillespie, Robbie, and Sebastian Stan got to meet the notorious reckless couple.
“I wanted to meet her to kind of say that I’m going to create a character. Wherever this film takes us, this is not me trying to replicate you,” says Robbie about Harding, “It was interesting to hear her perspective on things that we thought we knew. It’s always going to sound different from the person who it happened to.”
Deadline Studio at TIFF 2017 is presented by Calii Love, Watford Group, Philosophy Canada, and Equinox. Special thanks to Dan Gunam at Calii Love for location and production assistance; and Ontario Camera for equipment assistance. Video producer: Meaghan Gable; lighting and camera: Neil Hansen; design: Dialla Kawar; sound recording: Ida Jokinen.