‘I, Tonya’ Director Craig Gillespie on Tackling a Story You Think You Know

     September 14, 2017

One of my favorite films at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival was director Craig Gillespie’s I, Tonya. For those unfamiliar with figure skating’s biggest scandal, a little over twenty years ago, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan were at the top of their sport when Harding’s husband Jeff Gillooly and bodyguard Shawn Eckardt hired Shane Stant to break Kerrigan’s leg so she couldn’t compete against Harding in the 1994 Winter Olympics. It was a massive international story and is still one of the biggest scandals in US sports history. When the film was first announced, even with Margot Robbie playing Tonya Harding, I’ll admit I didn’t see the potential in making this movie. After all, didn’t most of us know what happened?

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Craig Gillespie has crafted an incredible movie that is part-comedy and part-mockumentary. But the most important thing to know is he’s never having the film judge the people involved, only presenting a behind-the-scenes look at what led to the shocking attack. I promise that as much as you think you know about Harding’s story, you’ll come away with an entirely new line of thinking after seeing the film.


Image via TIFF

In addition to Gillespie’s fantastic job behind the camera and Steven Rogers’ sharp script, one of the reasons I, Tonya is so fantastic was the fantastic work of the entire cast. While all the actors brought their A-game, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the amazing work of both Margot Robbie and Allison Janney (who plays Harding’s mom). Both performers absolutely disappeared in their roles and at the screening I attended Janney brought the house down on multiple occasions. I’d be shocked if Janney isn’t nominated come Awards season. I, Tonya also stars Sebastian Stan, Julianne Nicholson, Paul Walter Hauser and Bobby Cannavale.

Shortly after seeing the film I sat down with Craig Gillespie for an exclusive video interview. He talked about how he first got involved in the project, how they pulled off doing 270 scenes in a 31 day shoot, how he wanted each of the five skating sequences to have their own personality, how much skating Margot Robbie actually did, Janney’s amazing performance, his first cut of the film, and so much more. Check out what he had to say in the player above and below is exactly what we talked about.

Finally, you can read Matt Goldberg’s review of I, Tonya here. NEON and 30West bought the rights to the film so I’d wager it will be in theaters before the end of the year.

Craig Gillespie:

  • How did he get involved in the film?
  • How the script had 270 scenes on 110 pages.
  • Shooting the film in 31 days. How all the actors were so prepared.
  • How Margot Robbie had 110 costume changes.
  • How much did Margot actually skate?
  • Talks about the special effects work. How they had 80 shots scheduled that went to 200.
  • How he has a number of long shots (oners).
  • How the film has five big skating sequences and how he wanted each to have its own personality.
  • Talks about how Allison Janney was involved since the beginning and her amazing performance.
  • How long was his first cut of the film?
  • How they shot the film so the talking head interviews and breaking the 4th wall wouldn’t have to be used.
  • How he showed a cut of the film three weeks after they wrapped.

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