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The Portlandian, the Internet's premier source of Tonya News
November 12, 2017 Edition - ANNUAL BIRTHDAY EDITION
(C) 2017 Portland Ice Skating Society
Welcome to the annual birthday edition of The Portlandian for
2017. Tonya turns 47 today, proof that like a fine wine, some
things get better with age. It's also our own anniversary - "The
Portlandian" turns 21 today as well. And may we also extend
(slightly early) birthday wishes to "I, Tonya" star Allison
Janney, who turns 58 on the 19th - proof that older women can
still look hot.
Other famous people who share Tonya's birthday include actors
Grace Kelly, Ryan Gosling and Anne Hathaway, gymnast Nadia
Comaneci, writer and feminist Naomi Wolf, musician Neil Young,
and last but definitely not least, serial killer Charles Manson.
Obviously the big news since our last edition has been the
release of the film "I, Tonya", which has resulted in a
resurgence of interest in Tonya that hasn't been seen since
ESPN's "Price of Gold" almost four years ago. So the result is
that this is an extra large edition.
"I, TONYA" LANDS A TRIPLE AXEL IN TORONTO
"I, Tonya" had its world premiere at the Toronto International
Film Festival on the 8th of September. The premiere saw several
members of the cast and crew, including Margot Robbie, Sebastian
Stan (Gillooly), Allison Janney (LaVona), Paul Walter Hauser
(Shawn), Caitlyn Carver (Nancy), Mckenna Grace (young Tonya)
Julianne Nicholson (Diane) and director Craig Gillespie present:
Wikimedia has some Creative Commons licensed photos of the premiere.
Quality is a bit variable.
The cast held a Q&A session afterwards:
Critical reception was overwhelmingly positive. One article
called it "the Goodfellas of figure skating":
It also proved popular with audiences, coming in second behind "3
Billboards Outside Ebbing, MO." in the audience-voted People's
And last but definitely not least, we have Al Bundy's favorite
publication, "Footwear News", with a picture of Allison Janney in
a pair of spikey-heeled shoes:
I wonder if those heels would hurt if she trampled all over you
wearing them?... oh, sorry, just got distracted.
The film also scored a new U.S. distribution deal with two
relatively new companies, Neon and 30WEST, rumored by industry
insiders to be in the vicinity of $5 million. Apparently, NetFlix
offered 8 million, but Luckychap & Clubhouse insisted on a
theatrical release, which Netflix weren't interested in (because,
as we all know, an Emmy is prestigious but not as much as
an Oscar). Word was that Lions Gate were also interested, but
didn't want to finance an Oscar campaign for Margot, which was
part of the deal. Neon & 30WEST replace Miramax, which pulled out
earlier this year after deciding to refocus the company on
distribution of their extensive back catalog rather than new
POSITIVE RECEPTION AT OTHER FESTIVALS
Since Toronto, the movie has made its US debut at the Hamptons
Film Festival in New York, and has been doing the rounds of
assorted film festivals, including screenings at Philadelphia,
Hawaii, New Orleans, Savannah and Denver, to name just a few.
It's also screened at festivals in Belgium and Rome, marking the
first non-North American screenings. It will also make its
western-Canadian debut in Whistler, BC. early next month.
Typical was this review from a Colorado screening:
Obsession doesn’t even begin to describe the life and times of
figure skater Tonya Harding. Directed with delicious zeal by
Craig Gillespie, I, Tonya (Nov. 11) draws from the
confessional and completely contradictory first-person
accounts of Harding’s rise to infamy — from her lower-class
upbringing in Portland, Oregon, to her public demise at the
1994 Lillehammer Olympics.
Everyone knows Harding’s relationship to Nancy Kerrigan but I,
Tonya tells a much different story: one of class, a
domineering mother (Allison Janney, simply spectacular) and
the cyclical nature of abuse. And, as Harding (exquisitely
played by Margot Robbie) points out, the American audience was
just as complicit in that abuse: “I was loved for a minute,
then I was hated. Then I became a punch line. It was like
being abused all over again. And you were all my attackers.”
But perhaps the most important review so far comes from Matt
Harkins & Viviana of the THNK1994 Museum, who have given their
seal of approval:
"We’ve seen the movie and we couldn’t be happier with it,"
Harkins and Olen wrote. "Margot Robbie and Allison Janney
knock it out of the park. The coolest thing is that it
highlights all of the roadblocks Tonya overcame to excel in a
sport that never fully accepted her despite her skill, which
has been our feeling all along. Our generation grew up with
her as a laughing stock. It is a campy story but that doesn’t
mean it can’t be taken seriously at the same time. We are so
thrilled we had a part in reexamining her legacy."
Currently the IMDB rating for it stands at 7.4, with review
aggregator Rotten Tomatoes giving it a "91% fresh" rating. Which
in figure skating terms would equate to about a 5.8 on the old
TRAILERS & POSTERS NOW ON-LINE
Late October saw the launch of the film's official web site,
itonyamovie.com, and the release of the first "teaser" trailer:
Shortly afterwards came the full trailer, running almost 2 and a
half minutes. There are two versions: a red-band version, which
contains a bit of swearing:
and a sanitized green-band version, which doesn't (though why
anyone would want to watch a sanitized Tonya, I don't know):
These have also been accompanied by a couple of cool posters:
This one says it all, really:
We're really loving the marketing materials for this that have
come out so far. I wonder if we'll be getting a soundtrack album?
And if so, will it have LaTour's "People Are Still Having Sex" on
TIME TO REINFORCE THE MANTLEPIECE
The "awards season" has barely kicked off, and already "I,
Tonya" is racking up the silverware in tinseltown. First cab off
the rank was Dick Clark's Hollywood Film awards, where the cast
carted off the Ensemble award and Allison Janney won the
Supporting Actress category:
This Margot fan site has few photos:
The cast were also honored at Deadline's Contenders event, where
Margot described meeting Tonya and Allison Janney described
working with a bird:
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 thing Janney especially enjoyed about the role was acting
with a live bird perched on her shoulder. "I’ve worked with a
lot of barnyard animals but never a bird," she said. "Someone
told me the way to smoke a cigarette and look cool is to never
look at the cigarette, so I thought, 'I’m never going to look
at this bird.'" Working together wasn’t always easy, however.
"It was poking at my ear," Janney said. But the role was
"enormous fun. I just thought, 'bring it.'"
CAST AND CREW INTERVIEWS
This article explains how writer Steven Rogers used "I, Tonya" to
reboot his career:
Rogers had previously had some success with rom-coms such as
"Stepmom", "Kate & Leopold" and "Hope Floats", but by 2015 his
career was in the doldrums: his last film, a Christmas comedy
called "Love The Coopers" was a critical and box office flop, and
he was looking to move in a different direction. After watching
Nanette Burstein's ESPN documentary "The Price of Gold" with his
niece, he resolved to find Tonya and tell her story.
"I went on the Tonya Harding website to see who her agent was, to
see if life rights were even available," Rogers said. "I called
the number for her agent and it was a Motel 6."
Wrong website, Steve - you should have come to ours.
Eventually Rogers tracked Tonya down in Sisters, OR. where she
was living at the time. "I had never interviewed anyone before,"
he said. "I went up the first time just to see if we liked each
other. She picked me up in her truck and there was no outside
door handle, she had to open it for me [from the inside]. I knew
I was on to something."
Industry site Shoot has an interesting profile on "I, Tonya"
director Craig Gillespie, and his background in advertising. And
it also reveals a startling fact about the movie - most of it was
shot on real 35mm film! Talk about going retro - you can't get
much more authentically '90s than that:
Meanwhile, Gillespie talks about Tonya's reaction to the film:
Gillespie said he showed it to her the week before the premiere.
"I was nervous to show it to her," he said. "I hoped that she
would like it, but you never know. For somebody to look at
themselves objectively, it’s so hard, and she’s been bombarded by
this for so long... It’s so much Tonya’s story, that was my
He added, "On the one side, I feel like we’ve done a very honest
portrayal. 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. I really felt
like it was there in Steven’s script that, by the end of the
movie, we should empathize with her. I know it’s a tall order
with such a huge public persona that we have, but I really felt
it was possible with Margo’s performance, with this script".
Was Tonya pleased with the final result? According to the
article, a grinning Gillespie said "I heard she was actually
happy with it".
Oddly enough, "I, Tonya" wasn't actually Gillespie's first
encounter with the Tonya/Nancy saga - back in the early 90's
while working in advertising, he met Nancy Kerrigan while filming
a Campbell's Soup commercial in Canada:
The art directors, Gillespie and Barton Landsman, attended the
commercial's day-long shoot and even ate lunch with Nancy.
"She was totally game... she was up for everything," Gillespie
Although Nancy (as played by Caitlyn Carver) only appears in a
couple of scenes in "I, Tonya", this encounter made Gillespie
careful to do the right thing in his portrayal of her on screen:
"Having met her," he says, "I was just acutely aware we were
dealing with Nancy, too, as a human being."
Next up is an interview with Margot on The Hollywood Reporter's
Awards Chatter podcast. From 00:50 to 17:20 is about the
Weinstein scandal if you want to skip over it, Margot is from
17:20, mainly talking about her career in general, and the "I,
Tonya" stuff in particular is at the end from 1:09:40.
A New Zealand radio station recently did an interview with
Allison Janney - mainly about her TV work, with only a brief
mention of her aborted skating career at the end:
Margot talks about meeting Tonya:
She laughs. “Look, I was really amazed when I met her. She was
so sweet. People obviously never associate that word with Tonya
Harding, and I’m glad I got to meet her,” Robbie said. “She was
really, really lovely. She offered to train me. She asked, ‘How
are you finding ice skating?’ and I was like, ‘Dude! It’s
really hard. I’m really scared that I’m not going to be good
enough.’ She said, ‘Do you have your skates with you? I’ll take
you around the rink now and we can start practising
straightaway.’” She pauses. “She’s powerful, she’s a force. I
guess I was expecting someone kind of aggressive, really
forward and really rough, but she wasn’t at all.”
Meanwhile, in an article in W magazine, Margot comes out as a
"I asked Robbie whether or not she believes Harding was
innocent. “In the beginning, I wasn’t really sure. There were
things that didn’t add up. Facts were muddled.” She smiled.
“But the more I became Tonya, the more I saw things from her
point of view. I’m on her side 100 percent. I don’t think she
did anything but be different from what the world wanted.
There are cool misfits, and then there is Tonya. She didn’t
fit in. And I love that.”"
Comparing Tonya with another character she plays in a recent
film, Daphne Milne, the wife of Winne The Pooh creator A.A.
Milne, Margot reveals:
"I understand them both, but I miss Tonya more. Some
characters, like Daphne, I can let go of very quickly. But
not Tonya. I’m still not done with her. I found it hard to
shake her off."
And in an interview in the upcoming Autumn 2017 issue of
Wonderland magazine, Margot confirms what every Tonyaphile has
always known - that Tonya was hot (and Margot is someone who
definitely knows about looking hot):
"The worse I looked, the happier people were," she said.
"Ironically, Tonya wasn't unattractive, she's just been marred
with that story...Tonya, right or wrong, is human."
So there you have it: Margot is officially a Tonyaphile. She's
discovered that the Tonya Harding fan club is like the Eagles'
Hotel California - you can check out any time you like, but you
can never leave. And if you diss Tonya, we just might send her
around to your house dressed as Harley Quinn with her baseball
BEHIND THE SCENES: RECREATING THE LEGEND
Recreating Tonya's life in an authentic way was quite a
challenge. For instance, when they came to re-enact the triple
axel scene, the filmmakers were shocked to learn that they
couldn't just hire a stunt double as they'd originally planned -
their skating adviser informed them that there were only seven
other women in the world apart from Tonya that had achieved the
feat, and none of them would have been suitable stunt doubles.
They eventually resorted to CGI.
To recreate the infamous "broken shoelace" moment at Lillehammer
as accurately as possible, Margot and co examined recordings of
the incident shot by Japanese network NHK in an experimental
widescreen HDTV system - footage that the PDXISS Special Duties
Section had discovered on-line only months earlier and had
alerted scriptwriter Steven Rogers to the existence of. These
recordings contained dialog of Tonya and her coach frantically
trying to repair the shoelace that wasn't present on the US TV
Vogue has an interesting article on some of the make-up
techniques used to turn Margot into Tonya, escpecially "old"
Tonya. According to La Mia Denaver and prosthetic designer
Vincent Van Dyke, she wears wrap-around body prosthetics, as well
as pieces near her nasolabial folds and on her nose, cheeks, and
Equally important were the costumes: "The film is trying to stay
accurate to the events that were at the time highly publicized -
but also, and this its main goal, present Tonya's tragic life by
underlining its absurdity," explained Claudia Sarbu, the film's
costume supervisor. "Tonya's wardrobe is key to exposing who she
is and it was one of the things that stood against her in the
world of gracious figure skaters. She was the white trash and
somehow, despite her talent, she was never able to fit":
Young Tonya is played by Mckenna Grace. Becuase she's a minor,
her contract has to be filed in court, so TMZ got ahold of a
copy. It reveals she's guaranteed to get at least ten grand for
her part in the film, and got to fly business class and stay in a
hotel suite for any filming out of L.A.
OTHER ODDS & ENDS ROUNDUP
Although the film has been the main bit of news these past few
weeks, there have been other things going on in Tonya-land. The
THNK1994 museum has now has a new Tonya artwork by Laura Collins
for sale. Entitled "Tonya Harding wearing blue eyeliner", prints
can be purchased from the Museum for $59:
If you didn't manage to get tickets to Toronto, you could still
get some Tonya action that weekend. "Halt and Catch Fire" is an
AMC series set in the IT industry in the early years of the dot-
com era in the mid '90s. This season's fourth episode, which
aired that Saturday, follows the fortunes of a Yahoo!-type web
directory startup and is entitled "Tonya & Nancy". It really only
makes passing reference to the scandal and features a family
watching the Norway showdown on TV, however - but it's better
Although it's hard to believe now, there was a time when Yahoo!
was actually considered to be cool...
SUMMARY: "I, TONYA" - FIRST IMPRESSIONS
We had one hope for this project: that it would change people's
minds about Tonya. That instead of being seen as cheating trailer
trash or a punchline, she'd get restored to her rightful place in
skating history as one of the sport's true athletes.
The early signs didn't look good, however.
The writer, Steven Rogers' other films seemed to be mainly
lightweight rom-coms, and his last picture, "Love The Coopers",
just looked dire even from the trailer. He hadn't read the Tonya
Tapes, Tonya's own story. Plus he'd interviewed Gillooly, another
The other two main creative forces behind it looked equally
unlikely choices. The star, while definitely sexy, had never even
heard of Tonya before reading the script and looked nothing like
her - she was too tall, too skinny and her breasts were too big.
At least Alexandra Powers looked like Tonya in the TV movie.
The director attached to the project, Craig Gillespie, was a
relative unknown with a background in advertising whose most
notable previous work was a comedy about a sex doll. What little
info available about him suggested he was regarded as being a
"journeyman" - technically competent, but with no real style or
flair. Plus, like Margot, he was another Australian. "How the
heck could a couple of Ockers possibly understand such an utterly
American story?", I reasoned.
My suspicions seemed to be confirmed when I got ahold of a copy
of the script late last year. The idea of a fake documentary
seemed a worn-out, excessively-clever gimmick in the same mold
as other recent films like "Kate Plays Christine" and "Casting
JonBenet". Worse still, it was overly-reminiscent of the approach
taken by the TV movie all the way back in 1994, complete with
faux interviews. Even the subtitle - "based on irony-free, wildly
contradictory, totally true interviews with Tonya Harding and
Jeff Gillooly" - seemed a throwback to an earlier TV film about
another 90's scandal, "The Positively True Adventures of the
Alleged Texas Cheerleader Murdering Mom", which also used the
faux interview technique.
Reports from the set weren't comforting: leaked cellphone footage
showed Margot as Tonya telling a skating judge to "suck my
dick" - something that almost certainly never happened. Was this
"alternative fact" going to be typical of the approach the movie
would take? As they would say in Star Wars, "I have a bad feeling
By August I was getting nervous. I was steeling myself for
something that would - as the Aussies themselves would put it -
stink worse than a kangaroo's jockstrap. An error ridden disaster
that would make Tonya look like a cartoonish cliche, like Oliver
Stone's "Doors" film did with Jim Morrison.
Then came Toronto. And the first reviews trickled in. All
positive! Critics were calling it "the Goodfellas of figure
skating" - certainly not a phrase that would ever be used about
any other skating movie. The sex-doll-comedy director was now
being compared to "Marty" Scorsese; for a movie director, that's
about the highest praise you can get. Something was obviously up.
Then I saw the teaser trailer. In the opening sequence, Margot
exhales, and stubs out a cigarette with her skate.
With those two shots, Craig Gillespie had just flushed fifty
years of anti-smoking commercials straight down the drain.
Sure, Margot doesn't really look like Tonya, and her Oregonian
accent is a bit creaky, but she made her look like...... a
A cool, sexy, badass. Which is what her fans have always known
she is all along.
Then I saw the second, redband trailer. It did something I
believed was impossible: it made Tonya look like even more of a
badass than the first one!
Then there was the poster. The only way they could make Tonya
look any more "gangsta" in this poster would be to give Margot a
pair of mirrored sunglasses and a pump-action shotgun.
It's obvious that we're dealing with something very special
here. In fact, I've now got a GOOD feeling about this...
VISIT THESE GREAT TONYA WEB SITES:
PortIce - http://www.pdxiss.org
David House - http://www.tonyaharding.org
Charlie Main - http://www.charliesweb.com/tonya/tonya.html
Puppetboy - http://www.usapaul.net/tonya/
Valerie Smith - http://www.olywa.net/radu/valerie/LilHam.html
Swan Lake - http://members.tripod.com/~TonyaHarding/index.html
Blades of Gold - http://members.tripod.com/tmhfan/index.html
THNK1994 Museum - https://www.facebook.com/THNK1994/
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