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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" 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.,_Tonya

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 
Choice Award.

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 


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 
scoring system.


Late October saw the launch of the film's official web site,, 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 


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.'"


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 
primary focus".

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 


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.


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 
than nothing.

Although it's hard to believe now, there was a time when Yahoo! 
was actually considered to be cool...


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 
bad sign.

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 
about this".

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...


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