Tonya Harding remains one of the few professional ice skaters who could perform the triple axel, said to be one of the hardest moves to execute, yet she was able to carry it off and land it perfectly. However, ugly events off the ice and her messy personal life would overshadow her skills as a professional skater and she would forever be remembered for the events of January 1994. Harding’s ex-husband arranged an attack on fellow skater, Nancy Kerrigan, and thus set into motion a sporting scandal that would elevate Kerrigan to skating princess while Harding’s career came abruptly to an end after her ex was implicated in the crime.
Whether Harding knew of the attack or not, she was barred from professional ice skating and ridiculed by the tabloids. Now director Craig Gillespie brings Tonya Harding back into the limelight with his brilliant and wonderful dark comedy I, Tonya. Sebastian Stan plays Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly. He tells me, “I knew we were doing something great.”
Read our chat below and get ready for the ice-capade of I, Tonya when it’s released this weekend.
Seeing the film was wild. You don’t know what to expect and you leave reeling, it’s so wild.
I know, right? I knew we were doing something great. The daily feeling on set was that we were doing something really special because we were getting on so well. It started with the script because it was so funny, scary, and tragic, but also refreshing in the way it was told. I had just recently watched 30 for 30, The Price of Gold so I was really up to date on it. I found myself fascinated by it. I think we’re all really happy that people are embracing it and finding things with it.
Craig’s vision of the movie has really been translated and I think we’re all so happy about that and everything is like the icing on the cake.
You said you knew the script was special, but what was it like reading the script?
Like you said, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, I was quoting certain lines. It’s usually a sign to want to do something when I continue to think about it or I’m inspired by certain ideas. When I skyped with Craig about it, I was really excited because I had already thought of these things.
Some of the great scenes are with Margot, but you also have those incredible scenes with Paul Hauser.
The second I met Paul, we had rehearsals, I immediately clicked with him. I had a car and he actually can’t drive.
Are you kidding?
No. He really can’t. He lives in LA and he doesn’t have a license. I told him to ride with me and we’d drive around Atlanta and we clicked immediately. It’s very hard for me to keep a straight face with him but we also had this great sense of trust, and we’d also push each other, and we couldn’t have done that without the trust there.
How did you become Jeff?
What I had was a person. I had a look and a wardrobe that was in place. It’s not like I was going to search for stuff. I had an image to work with, but I just needed to find my way into it. Surprisingly, there’s not a lot of stuff out there online. I scavenged the internet for anything I could find on him.
Our screenwriter [Steven Rogers] had done this interview with Jeff and I’d walk around listening to it to get the voice down. I actually met him and I had insisted on meeting him. It was helpful to do that.
What did you take from that meeting?
Everybody has a story. It’s interesting the way that happens. There are always multiple people involved in any story and everyone has a certain point of view and Jeff had his. I wanted to meet him because I couldn’t find a photo of him smiling and I couldn’t see what made him light up.
Margot and I discussed this, but it seemed like a love story of sorts and I had to put my own personal views aside, take this job on as an actor and limit whatever judgments I had about what happened and just do the best I could to serve the script. There are things that he and Tonya saw differently and they had contrasting points of view, but I’m still so fascinated by it. I wanted to know how he grew up and looked for whatever I could to inspire me.