10 Surprising Facts About I, Tonya

NEON
NEON

With Oscar nominations for Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Film Editing, the fourth wall-demolishing biopic about Tonya Harding’s life and figure skating career through the infamous attack on Nancy Kerrigan in 1994 is the scrappy little outsider of this year's awards season. Which is fitting, as I, Tonya has a punk rock edge that should make audiences question the way they view the usual, stuffy biopics (and the truth itself).

Written by Steven Rogers and directed by Craig Gillespie, the movie stars Margot Robbie as Harding, Sebastian Stan as Jeff Gillooly, and Allison Janney as Harding’s mother, LaVona Golden. It also stars a lot of early 1990s fashion and Olympic-sized drama. Here are 10 fun facts about I, Tonya.

1. CRAIG GILLESPIE WORKED WITH NANCY KERRIGAN ON A 1993 CAMPBELL’S SOUP COMMERCIAL.

Before making movies, Craig Gillespie worked as an art director for several advertising companies, and just as Kerrigan’s star was rising higher, she starred in one of his commercials that showed that eating soup gives you the strength to gut-check an ice hockey player. What are the odds that he’d make a movie about her attackers 25 years later?

2. I, TONYA HIRED ONE OF KERRIGAN’S CHOREOGRAPHERS.

For training and choreography, the film turned to Canadian figure skater Sarah Kawahara. Kawahara was the first skater to win an Emmy for choreography, for her work on a Scott Hamilton special in 1997, and she won again for choreographing the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. She’s also worked with dozens of top-level skaters in her career, including with Kerrigan for the 1995 TV event Nancy Kerrigan Special: Dreams on Ice.

3. ALLISON JANNEY USED TO BE A COMPETITIVE SKATER.

Allison Janney in 'I, Tonya' (2017)
NEON

Allison Janney, who scored an Oscar nomination for playing Harding’s mother LaVona Golden, grew up with Olympic ambitions, figure skating as a teenager until she accidentally ran into a glass door and sliced a tendon in her leg. She gave up competitive skating and went to college to become an actor instead.

4. THE ROLE OF TONYA HARDING’S MOTHER WAS WRITTEN FOR JANNEY.

Screenwriter Steven Rogers is a longtime friend of Janney’s, and he’s written several roles with her in mind, but she was never cast in any of them until now. Unlike the other real-life counterparts from the film, Rogers was never able to track down LaVona Golden to interview her, so her portrayal is built from old documentary footage and creative license.

5. THEY USED BEER TO GET HARDING’S HAIR RIGHT.

Sebastian Stan and Margot Robbie in 'I, Tonya' (2017)
NEON

Lead hair designer Adruitha Lee made four wigs for Robbie to wear, designing them using products and dyes from the time. Her secret weapon for getting that crispy, crunchy look? Cheap beer. “You’re not going to get that bang to stand up like that with just mousse,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.

6. EVEN THE PARAKEET HAD TO AUDITION.

The production auditioned three different birds to see which one would remain calmest while perched atop Janney’s fur coat-covered shoulders. “I tried a couple of birds, and I picked Little Man, which is not his real name, but that’s what I called him,” Janney told The Huffington Post. “I knew it was my job to make it look like I had a relationship with the bird, that we’d been together for a long time. I couldn’t look ruffled, if you will, by anything this bird did. And believe me, he did a lot. I mean, you saw him trying to eat out my ear.”

7. MARGOT ROBBIE STRUGGLED THROUGH AN INJURY ALL THROUGHOUT FILMING.

While tackling the physically demanding ice skating elements of the shoot, Robbie herniated a disc in her neck and says she would have quit the production had she not been a producer on it. “Because I was a producer, I was like, ‘We can’t afford that. Just shoot me up with some steroids, and let’s keep going,’” she said during a SAG-AFTRA interview. Robbie, who earned a Best Actress Oscar nod for the role, got an MRI at the end of each week to assess whether she could keep filming or not.

8. HARDING’S CONTACT INFORMATION CONVINCED ROGERS TO WRITE THE MOVIE.

Rogers was inspired to do something with the story after seeing a skating documentary, but he didn’t get invested until he tried to reach out to Harding for the first time. He dialed the contact phone number for her agent as listed on her professional website, and it went to a Motel 6. At that point, Rogers decided that he would stick with the project no matter where it took him.

9. THE SCREENWRITER LEANED INTO THE REAL STORY’S LACK OF TRUTH.

Margot Robbie in 'I, Tonya' (2017)
NEON

What do you do if you’re writing a movie based on real events, but no one can agree on exactly what happened? Rogers conducted interviews with both Harding and Jeff Gillooly, but, “Their stories were so wildly contradictory,” Rogers told Gold Derby. “I thought, ‘That’s my in.’ I’ll just show everybody’s point of view, and then let the audience decide what they want to decide … Everyone’s trying to control the narrative…They’re all telling themselves what they need to know to be able to live with themselves.”

10. ROBBIE DIDN’T KNOW THE EVENTS OF THE MOVIE REALLY HAPPENED.

The rivalry between Kerrigan and Harding was all over the news leading up to the 1992 Olympics, and the attack on Kerrigan became a national scandal ahead of the 1994 games in Lillehammer, but Robbie didn’t know about it until after she read a script she thought was fictional. You can’t really blame her, though: Robbie is from Australia, and she was 4 years old when the attack happened.

Tom Hiddleston Will Return as Loki for Live-Action Series for Disney+

Vittorio Zunino Celotto, Getty Images for Gucci
Vittorio Zunino Celotto, Getty Images for Gucci

After various reports and rumors claiming Marvel's Loki would be getting his own TV series for the new Disney+ streaming service, Disney CEO Bob Iger has finally confirmed the news.

In an official press release, it was also announced that ​Tom Hiddleston will be reprising his role as "Loki, the god of mischief" for the live-action series.

It was back in September that Variety first reported that both Loki and Scarlet Witch would be getting their own TV series for Disney+, with Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen reprising their respective roles. It was also rumored these series would only be around six to eight episodes apiece, allowing the stars maintain their otherwise busy schedules.

In the same release, Disney ​announced a Rogue One: A Star Wars Story live-action prequel series, starring Diego Luna, who will reprise his role of Cassian Andor.

“Going back to the Star Wars universe is very special for me," Luna said. "I have so many memories of the great work we did together and the relationships I made throughout the journey."

With its slate of A-list properties, Disney+ is already shaking up the small-screen with its announced original series. The service is not expected to debut until at least late 2019.

40 Educational Facts About Sesame Street

Getty Images
Getty Images

On November 10, 1969, television audiences were introduced to Sesame Street. In the near-50 years since, the series has become one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame Street facts.

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius.

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2".

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS's funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmire, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

Photo of Elmo from 'Sesame Street'
iStock

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s executive producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Mental Floss's Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame Street's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

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