DEADLINE – “I didn’t set out to do it at all,” I, Tonya screenwriter Steven Rogers said at Deadline’s The Contenders event Saturday in Los Angeles. “Then I saw this great documentary on 30 for 30 about Tonya Harding.”
Neon’s I, Tonya explores the reality of Olympic figure skater Harding’s life, and the differing accounts of what happened when her U.S. rival Nancy Kerrigan was attacked and injured. With Margot Robbie in the title role, Rogers set out to show a side of Harding that nobody knew.
“It was fascinating to really get Tonya’s backstory,” director Craig Gillespie told Deadline’s moderator Pete Hammond. Using the contradictory accounts from Rogers’ interviews with Tonya and her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, the film cleverly presents several viewpoints. “We found in the edit [that] we made that deliberately less clear, so the audience had to concentrate to work out what version we were telling at that moment,” Gillespie said.
Robbie said she decided how she would approach the role before she actually met Harding because she wanted “just to meet her as a person, I didn’t want it to feel like research.” Harding was “incredibly kind,” Robbie said. “She was like, ‘How are you learning to skate? Do you want me to help you train?’”
One of the things that really helped Robbie present Harding without prejudice was that she didn’t know about the Kerrigan incident before seeing the script. “It was actually better that way, to approach it with fresh eyes,” she said. “The reality is she had a very hard life.”
Check our gallery to see some photos of Margot and the I,Tonya cast during The Contenders panel for the movie, and some portraits taken during the interview! Enjoy!