Margot Robbie transforms into controversial figure skater Tonya Harding in the new teaser trailer for I, Tonya from Lars and the Real Girl director Craig Gillespie. I, Tonya won critical raves when it played at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, and was picked up by Neon for $5 million with an eye toward pushing the film as an awards-season player.
The real-life Tonya Harding rose from a hard-luck background to become a world-class figure skater, competing in the 1992 Winter Olympics. Harding’s reputation and career went off the cliff after she was accused of being involved in a bizarre plot with her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly and bodyguard Shawn Eckhardt, to injure her top rival Nancy Kerrigan and force her to withdraw from the 1994 Winter Olympics. The attack on Kerrigan, which involved a stooge named Shane Slant striking the skater in the leg with a baton, exploded into a massive world-wide media story with Harding becoming both a pariah and a punchline.
The first teaser trailer for I, Tonya from Neon gives us a glimpse of Harley Quinn herself, Margot Robbie’s transformation into Harding, while hinting at the film’s unconventional approach to Harding’s well-known story. The teaser initially seems to promise a blandly inspirational underdog sports tale (which is what Harding’s real story might have been had things developed in the usual way), then takes a sharp turn into dark territory.
Robbie skates and twirls her way across the ice, in a recreation of the historic triple axel that was the pinnacle of Harding’s career, while her mother (Allison Janney) and other adoring fans root her on. However, the sense of triumph doesn’t last: we then see a brief shot of Slant taking out the baton he would use to attack Kerrigan, the event that catalyzed Harding’s downfall, and flashing police lights and a snippet of a make-up free Robbie being hounded by the press.
Then the teaser takes one final turn: Robbie’s voiceover talks about “haters” hounding her to tell the truth, but she insists “There’s no such thing as truth, I mean it’s bulls–t.” The arc of the teaser takes us from a kind of fantasy version of Harding’s story – as she herself may have imagined it – then hits us with the stark truth of Harding’s fall from grace…but then sees Harding taking back her own story with her brazen assertion that there’s no truth anyway.
Many were surprised when Robbie elected to take on the role of Harding, and some of the more cynical critics out there accused her of pulling a classic “uglying-down” maneuver in hopes of garnering an Oscar nomination. I, Tonya is indeed getting Oscar buzz, with Robbie and co-star Janney both being mentioned as possible acting nominees (so if Robbie’s move was calculated, it seems to be working). I, Tonya also stars Bucky Barnes himself Sebastian Stan, Mr. Robot actor Bobby Cannavale, Julianne Nicholson and Caitlin Carver.
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