The Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan scandal turned the 1994 Winter Olympics into one of the most-watched TV events in history and cast a light on the dark side of competitive figure skating. A new biopic — I, Tonya — explores what led to the clubbing attack on Kerrigan orchestrated by Harding’s then-husband. Margot Robbie plays the titular Tonya in the film.
The attack — which Harding eventually plead guilty to conspiring to hinder prosecution — led to her expulsion from the sport entirely. Harding became notorious, years before the likes of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. A sex tape of Harding and her husband Jeff Gillooly was released. Harding became a boxer and fought Paula Jones in a made-for-TV boxing event. And then she fell into obscurity.
In true Hollywood fashion, the teaser trailer for I, Tonya depicts some true and sensationalized Harding moments.
Harding was a smoker, which was bad for any competitive athlete, but especially an asthmatic. She also spoke with a Northwestern accent, having been raised in the Portland area.
The costumes are also strangely accurate. The purple one at the top of the trailer is the spitting image of one Harding wore in the late ’80s (one of many designed by her mother, LaVona). The sea green one is the one she wore in 1991, where she won the U.S. Figure Skating National Championship after landing the Axel (watch below). And the white one in the promo images is from the 1992 Olympics (where teammates Kristi Yamaguchi and Nancy Kerrigan medaled while Tonya was left off the podium).
There are a few sensationalized moments as well. Tonya was known for the triple Axel, a difficult jump that only she and Japanese skater Midori Ito were landing. In the trailer, Robbie (or her stunt double) is doing a triple Lutz jump. And a sequence where Robbie’s Harding is bashing a competitor with a baseball bat in a dark hallway seems like her Harley Quinn role from Suicide Squad.
In real life, the attack on Kerrigan happened in a backstage arena area, and the perpetrator was Gillooly’s associate Shawn Eckhardt.
I, Tonya opens in Winter 2017, ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Korea.