When Olympic figure skating hopeful Nancy Kerrigan was clubbed on the knee at a training session in 1994, it made headlines around the world — and all eyes soon turned to her skating rival Tonya Harding, who was accused of plotting the attack with her ex-husband and her bodyguard.
But Margot Robbie, who plays Harding in the upcoming film I, Tonya, says the skater’s now-notorious reputation was heavily shaped by frenzied media coverage.
“It was like this giant game of Chinese whispers whereby 20 years later, everyone remembers with absolutely certainty that [Harding] was the one holding a baseball bat bashing in Nancy Kerrigan’s kneecap,” Robbie told EW in a recent interview. “People would come up and be like, ‘Oh, I remember that happening, I remember seeing her hit someone with a baseball bat.’ … That didn’t happen! It just didn’t.”
She added that Harding “was villainized so much by the media that people actually remember the whole thing totally differently. And they remember it with absolute conviction, which I found fascinating.”
Harding ultimately pleaded guilty to conspiring to hinder prosecution in the attack and was banned from figure skating for life, though she has long denied any involvement in the planning.
Robbie’s costar Allison Janney, who plays Harding’s mother, said of the film, “You leave having a different opinion about [Harding], I think. The audience will still make up their own mind about how much she was involved or not, but I think they’ll come away with a little more empathy for her.”
Watch the video above for more from Robbie, Janney, and the rest of the I, Tonya cast. The film opens Dec. 8.