One went smoothly, while the other was more... challenging

By Shirley Li
December 11, 2017 at 03:00 PM EST
12/08/17
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Margot Robbie didn’t want to meet Tonya Harding until after she figured out how she’d play her in I, Tonya. When she finally did, she was only there for one thing: to see if the disgraced figure skater was all right, 23 years after Harding was accused of helping to plot an attack on rival Nancy Kerrigan and saw her career derailed in the subsequent fallout.

“More than anything, I just wanted to see if she was okay,” Robbie says. “I felt like out of all the footage I’d ever seen and watched online, it didn’t feel like there was any resolution to her story. No one had assured me in any of those documentaries that she’s okay now, and after spending all this time trying to see things from her point of view, I feel for her.”

And Harding, it turns out, is doing more than okay — at least according to the actress. “[Meeting her] was amazing because she so evidently loves her husband and her kid, and to see her speak about them even though she’s found solace in the life she’s spent, it did reassure me,” she explains. “It did make me feel a lot better that she’s kind of found her place now and become a good mother, which is clearly important to her.”

Taylor Hill/FilmMagic; Inset: David Madison/Getty Images; EUGENE GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images

But if Robbie had a pleasant encounter with her real-life counterpart, Sebastian Stan recalls a more playfully contentious meeting between himself and Jeff Gillooly, Harding’s ex-husband and the man Stan portrays in the film. “Let me tell you, I was peeing my pants,” the actor says, laughing.

That reaction wasn’t out of fright, Stan says, but out of Gillooly challenging him on why he’d even want to do a film about the subject matter: “He picked the restaurant, so we went there, we sat down, and the first thing he said to me was, ‘So… why would anyone want to do this?’ Like, ‘why would you want to do this? Why would you want to be in this movie?'” Stan remembers. “I was like, ‘Oh! Well, uhh, you know, the script was really great, and it’s such a wild story,’ and then I remember him saying something like, ‘Yeah, but no one’s ever gonna want to see this. No one’s ever gonna pay attention.'” Stan laughs again. “I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t knooooooow!'”

Even so, Gillooly appears to have come around to the idea of a film adaptation of a time in his life from more than two decades ago in some ways. Or, at least in the way Stan looks. “I think he saw a picture of me as him with the mustache, and he wrote to me and he said something like, ‘Well, nice mustache! You might bring that into fashion, something I never could have done,'” Stan says. “It was funny.”

And once the film was completed, screenwriter Steven Rogers says Harding went to a screening with her husband and gave a, well, positive enough review. “I was very nervous about her watching it and seeing it,” he says. “She’s emailed me twice since then, just to thank me for it. She said that she laughed. She said that she cried. She said there were things in it that she didn’t like, but I think that’s normal.”

“Look,” he adds, “I could not sit through a two-hour movie of my life, you know what I mean? It’s like, ‘How do you do that? How do you watch someone else interpret however long you’ve been on this planet in under two hours?’ It’s an impossible task.” But then again, having survived notoriety, Harding seems used to dealing with impossible tasks.

I, Tonya is now in theaters.

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