Many key moments in Harding's life have played out in front of the cameras, allowing for a side-by-side comparison of the actual events and as restaged by Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding
I, Tonya, an unconventional biopic about the unconventional, embattled yet iconic '90s figure skater, is based on "irony free, wildly contradictory and totally true" interviews with Tonya Harding and her one-time husband, Jeff Gillooly. (We're told as much via title card at the start of the movie.)
While the conflicting details of those discussions constitute the crux of the film, many key moments in Harding's life have played out in front of the cameras, allowing for a side-by-side comparison of actual events and as restaged by Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding. Either watch these videos before seeing I, Tonya, out now, or come back afterward to truly appreciate how closely the movie nails it.
The Real Tonya Harding, Then and Now
Donning an array of permed wigs and bedazzled unitards, Robbie plays Harding from her teenage years into her 20s -- then via makeup and prosthetics, she is aged up to play Harding at 44. This vintage news reel gives a good sense of Tonya's appearance and attitude in those early days. (To get an idea of 44-year-old Tonya, watch her 2009 The Oprah Winfrey Show interview here.)
Tonya's Record-Setting Triple Axel
Tonya didn't possess many of the qualities the snobby figure skating world expected from its stars -- she was more athlete than ice capades -- but her talent was undeniable when she became the first American female skater to ever land a triple axel at the 1991 World Championships. (And she did it skating to "Wild Thing," by Tone Loc!)
The Whack Heard Round the World
The triple may have made Tonya famous, but the Nancy Kerrigan incident is what made her infamous. On January 6, 1994, an assailant hired by Gillooly and Shawn Eckhardt, Tonya's "bodyguard," tracked Kerrigan to a practice rink in Detroit and whacked her leg. The aftermath was captured on video, with Kerrigan on the ground wailing, "Why? Whhy? Whhhhhhy?!"
Tonya's Near Disqualification & Olympics Do-Over
Whether it was nerves, pressure, karma or simply a broken shoelace, Tonya's most dramatic Olympics were the 1994 Games in Lillehammer, Norway, where a backstage "nightmare" led to Tonya' stopping her performance mid-routine and begging the judges to let her fix her skate.
Here is her final routine, to the freaking Jurassic Park soundtrack:
LaVona and Her "Little Man"
Allison Janney plays Tonya's mother, LaVona Golden, in the film and her look in the mockumentary segments -- a fur coat with a live bird perched on her shoulder -- is taken directly from footage of LaVona seen in Sandra Luckow's 1986 student-made documentary, Sharp Edges. (The footage was later repurposed for 60 Minutes and ESPN's 30 for 30 episode, "The Price of Gold.") You can see a portion of it in this video.
Margot Robbie Dishes on Workout Advice From Tonya Harding and Taking on the ‘Scary’ Role (Exclusive)