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.

Orson Welles's Former Hollywood Hills Estate Is Taking Vacation Reservations

Fred Mott, Getty Images
Fred Mott, Getty Images

Orson Welles's former Hollywood Hills estate is a perfect place to get away from society, grow a bushy beard, and brood over a bottle of whiskey.

Interested? The late Hollywood icon's 3000-square-foot home is available to rent for about $755 a night through HomeAway. The house, which sits on its own private 15,000-square-foot knoll, was home to Welles at the very beginning of his career and is where he wrote the screenplay for 1941's Citizen Kane. Bring along your typewriter and try to channel some of his greatness.

Quite a few other celebrities have inhabited the house as well, including Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, and David Bowie. Features of the grand four-bedroom mansion—built in 1928—include a lagoon pool, Jacuzzi, deck, and both canyon and city views.

There's never been a better time to rent Welles's abode: his final film, The Other Side of the Wind, is set to premiere at this month's Venice Film Festival before arriving on Netflix. The unfinished flick, which was shot intermittently between 1970 and 1976, has been completed and restored for its much-anticipated release. (Of course the mansion has plenty of TVs for your viewing pleasure.)

The property has a three- to five-night stay minimum, depending on the season. For more pictures, see below or head to HomeAway. And since you're already in vacation-planning mode, another creative celebrity abode to consider is F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's Montgomery, Alabama home, which is available to rent via Airbnb.

Orson Welles' house
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles mansion
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

10 Things You Might Not Know About Robert De Niro

RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images
RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images

Robert De Niro is part of the pantheon of independent-minded filmmakers who cut through Hollywood noise in the 1970s with edgier fare to create what became known as “The New Hollywood.” Following stints with Brian De Palma and Roger Corman, De Niro teamed up with Martin Scorsese for the first time with 1973's Mean Streets, which launched a fruitful artistic collaboration that has produced some of the best movies of the past half-century.

Even after his shift into commercial comedies like Meet the Parents, “dedication” has remained De Niro’s watchword. The two-time Oscar winner has earned Hollywood legend status with panache and bone-deep portrayals. Here are 10 facts about the filmmaker on his 75th birthday. (Yes, we’re talkin’ to you.)

1. HIS FIRST ROLE WAS IN A STAGING OF THE WIZARD OF OZ—AT AGE 10.

Robert De Niro got bit by the acting bug early. He threatened to thrash a hippopotamus from top to bottom-us as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz at the tender age of 10. (This is the remake and casting the world needs right now.)

2. HE DROPPED OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL TO PURSUE ACTING.

Robert De Niro arrives at the UK premiere of epic war drama film 'The Deer Hunter', UK, 28th February 1979
John Minihan, Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

De Niro’s mother, Virginia Admiral, was a painter whose work was part of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and his father, Robert De Niro, Sr., was a celebrated abstract expressionist painter. So the apple falling into drama school instead of the art studio still isn’t that far from the tree. Having already gotten a youthful dose of stage life, De Niro quit his private high school to try to become an actor. He first went to the nonprofit HB Studio before studying under Stella Adler and, later, The Actors Studio.

3. HE’S A DUAL CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES AND ITALY.

De Niro is American, Italian-American, and, as of 2004, Italian. The country bestowed honorary citizenship upon De Niro as an honor in recognition of his career, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing to the passport office. A group called the Order of the Sons of Italy in America strongly protested the Italian government’s plan due to De Niro’s frequent portrayal of negative Italian-American stereotypes.

4. HE GAINED 60 POUNDS FOR RAGING BULL.

Preparing to play the misfortune-laden boxing champ Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull required two major things from De Niro: training and gaining. For the latter, De Niro ate his way through Europe during a four-month binge of ice cream and pasta. His 60-pound-gain was dramatic enough that it concerned Martin Scorsese. It was one way to show dedication to a role, but the training element was even more impressive. De Niro got so good at boxing that when LaMotta set up several professional-level sparring bouts for the actor, De Niro won two of them.

5. HE AND MARLON BRANDO ARE THE ONLY ACTORS TO WIN OSCARS FOR PLAYING THE SAME CHARACTER.

De Niro won his first Oscar in 1975 for The Godfather: Part II, for portraying the younger version of Vito Corleone—the wizened capo played by Marlon Brando, who also won an Oscar for the role (Brando’s came in 1973, for The Godfather). No other pair of actors has managed the feat, although Jeff Bridges came close in 2010 when he was nominated for playing Rooster Cogburn in Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit (a role originated by John Wayne in Henry Hathaway’s 1969 movie of the same name). Oddly enough, Bridges was in contention for the role of Travis Bickle, the role that earned De Niro his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

6. HE DROVE A CAB TO PREPARE FOR TAXI DRIVER.

If you’re looking for commitment to a role, ask Hack #265216. De Niro got a taxicab driver’s license to study up to play Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and spent several weekends cruising around New York City picking up fares. It’s possible that having his teeth filed down for Cape Fear is the most intense transformation he’s undergone for a role, but picking up a part-time job to live the lonely life of Bickle is more humane.

7. ONE OF HIS FILMS POSTPONED ONE OF HIS OSCAR WINS.

The 53rd Academy Awards—where De Niro won for playing Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull—were originally scheduled for March 30, 1981 but were postponed until the following day because of an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. The would-be assassin, John Hinckley, Jr., claimed the attack was intended to impress Jodie Foster, who Hinckley grew obsessed with after watching Taxi Driver.

8. HE LAUNCHED THE TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL IN THE WAKE OF 9/11.

Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal speak onstage at the 'Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives' Premiere during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at Radio City Music Hall on April 19, 2017 in New York City
Theo Wargo, Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Producer Jane Rosenthal, philanthropist Craig M. Hatkoff, and De Niro founded the Tribeca Film Festival in 2001 as a showcase for independent films that would hopefully “spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan” after the devastation of the 9/11 terror attacks. With its empire state of mind, the inaugural festival in 2002 featured a “Best of New York Series” handpicked by Martin Scorsese and drew an astonishing 150,000 attendees.

9. HE WAS ONCE INTERROGATED BY FRENCH POLICE CONCERNING A PROSTITUTION RING.

One of the most bizarre chapters in De Niro’s life came when he was publicly named in the investigation of a prostitution ring in Paris. The 1998 incident included a lengthy interrogation session (De Niro filed an official complaint) and a pile of paparazzi waiting for him when he left the prosecutor’s office. De Niro railed against the entire country, vowing to return his Legion of Honour and telling Le Monde newspaper that, "I will never return to France. I will advise my friends against going to France.” (He had cooled off enough by 2011 to act as the Cannes Film Festival’s jury president.)

10. HE LOVED THE CAT(S) IN MEET THE PARENTS.

Meet the Parents’s Mr. Jinx (Jinxy!) was played by two Himalayans named Bailey and Misha, and De Niro fell in love with them. He played with them between scenes, kept kibble in his pocket for them, and asked director Jay Roach to have Mr. Jinx in as many scenes as possible.

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