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10 Surprising Facts About I, Tonya

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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)
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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)
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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.

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Food
How to Make Miles Davis’s Famous Chili Recipe
STF/AFP/Getty Images
STF/AFP/Getty Images

Miles Davis, who was born on May 26, 1926, was one of the most important and influential musicians of the 20th century, and changed the course of jazz music more times in his life than some people change their sheets. He was also pretty handy in the kitchen.

In his autobiography, Miles, Davis wrote that in the early 1960s, “I had gotten into cooking. I just loved food and hated going out to restaurants all the time, so I taught myself how to cook by reading books and practicing, just like you do on an instrument. I could cook most of the great French dishes—because I really liked French cooking—and all the black American dishes. But my favorite was a chili dish I called Miles's South Side Chicago Chili Mack. I served it with spaghetti, grated cheese, and oyster crackers."

Davis didn’t divulge what was in the dish or how to make it, but in 2007, Best Life magazine got the recipe from his first wife, Frances, who Davis said made it better than he did.

MILES'S SOUTH SIDE CHICAGO CHILIK MACK (SERVES 6)

1/4 lb. suet (beef fat)
1 large onion
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. ground veal
1/2 lb. ground pork
salt and pepper
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin seed
2 cans kidney beans, drained
1 can beef consommé
1 drop red wine vinegar
3 lb. spaghetti
parmesan cheese
oyster crackers
Heineken beer

1. Melt suet in large heavy pot until liquid fat is about an inch high. Remove solid pieces of suet from pot and discard.
2. In same pot, sauté onion.
3. Combine meats in bowl; season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, and cumin.
4. In another bowl, season kidney beans with salt and pepper.
5. Add meat to onions; sauté until brown.
6. Add kidney beans, consommé, and vinegar; simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
7. Add more seasonings to taste, if desired.
8. Cook spaghetti according to package directions, and then divide among six plates.
9. Spoon meat mixture over each plate of spaghetti.
10. Top with Parmesan and serve oyster crackers on the side.
11. Open a Heineken.

John Szwed’s biography of Davis, So What, mentions another chili that the trumpeter’s father taught him how to make. The book includes the ingredients, but no instructions, save for serving it over pasta. Like a jazz musician, you’ll have to improvise. 

bacon grease
3 large cloves of garlic
1 green, 1 red pepper
2 pounds ground lean chuck
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 jar of mustard
1/2 shot glass of vinegar
2 teaspoons of chili powder
dashes of salt and pepper
pinto or kidney beans
1 can of tomatoes
1 can of beef broth

serve over linguine

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4 Fascinating Facts About John Wayne
Fox Photos, Getty Images
Fox Photos, Getty Images

Most people know John Wayne, who would have been 111 years old today, for his cowboy persona. But there was much more to the Duke than that famous swagger. Here are a few facts about Duke that might surprise you.

1. A BODY SURFING ACCIDENT CHANGED HIS CAREER. 

John Wayne, surfer? Yep—and if he hadn’t spent a lot of time doing it, he may never have become the legend he did. Like many USC students, Wayne (then known as Marion Morrison) spent a good deal of his extracurricular time in the ocean. After he sustained a serious shoulder injury while bodysurfing, Morrison lost his place on the football team. He also lost the football scholarship that had landed him a spot at USC in the first place. Unable to pay his fraternity for room and board, Morrison quit school and, with the help of his former football coach, found a job as the prop guy at Fox Studios in 1927. It didn’t take long for someone to realize that Morrison belonged in front of a camera; he had his first leading role in The Big Trail in 1930.

2. HE TOOK HIS NICKNAME FROM HIS BELOVED FAMILY POOCH. 

Marion Morrison had never been fond of his feminine-sounding name. He was often given a hard time about it growing up, so to combat that, he gave himself a nickname: Duke. It was his dog’s name. Morrison was so fond of his family’s Airedale Terrier when he was younger that the family took to calling the dog “Big Duke” and Marion “Little Duke,” which he quite liked. But when he was starting his Hollywood career, movie execs decided that “Duke Morrison” sounded like a stuntman, not a leading man. The head of Fox Studios was a fan of Revolutionary War General Anthony Wayne, so Morrison’s new surname was quickly settled. After testing out various first names for compatibility, the group decided that “John” had a nice symmetry to it, and so John Wayne was born. Still, the man himself always preferred his original nickname. “The guy you see on the screen isn’t really me,” he once said. “I’m Duke Morrison, and I never was and never will be a film personality like John Wayne.”

3. HE WAS A CHESS FANATIC. 

Anyone who knew John Wayne personally knew what an avid chess player he was. He often brought a miniature board with him so he could play between scenes on set.

When Wayne accompanied his third wife, Pilar Pallete, while she played in amateur tennis tournaments, officials would stock a trailer with booze and a chess set for him. The star would hang a sign outside of the trailer that said, “Do you want to play chess with John Wayne?” and then happily spend the day drinking and trouncing his fans—for Wayne wasn’t just a fan of chess, he was good at chess. It’s said that Jimmy Grant, Wayne’s favorite screenwriter, played chess with the Duke for more than 20 years without ever winning a single match.

Other famous chess partners included Marlene Dietrich, Rock Hudson, and Robert Mitchum. During their match, Mitchum reportedly caught him cheating. Wayne's reply: "I was wondering when you were going to say something. Set 'em up, we'll play again."

4. HE COINED THE TERM "THE BIG C."

If you say you know someone battling “The Big C” these days, everyone immediately knows what you’re referring to. But no one called it that before Wayne came up with the term, evidently trying to make it less scary. Worried that Hollywood would stop hiring him if they knew how sick he was with lung cancer in the early 1960s, Wayne called a press conference in his living room shortly after an operation that removed a rib and half of one lung. “They told me to withhold my cancer operation from the public because it would hurt my image,” he told reporters. “Isn’t there a good image in John Wayne beating cancer? Sure, I licked the Big C.”

Wayne's daughter, Aissa Wayne, later said that the 1964 press conference was the one and only time she heard her father call it “cancer,” even when he developed cancer again, this time in his stomach, 15 years later. Sadly, Wayne lost his second battle with the Big C and died on June 11, 1979 at the age of 72.

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