The Surreal Story of How Tonya Harding Inspired Awards Season’s Scrappiest Contender

Three years ago, Tonya Harding was pushing screenwriter Steven Rogers behind to his Oregon board when she offering him her pinky finger.

Rogers had flown adult to Oregon from Los Angeles on his possess dime to accommodate a ashamed figure skater, anticipating she would let him squeeze her life rights for a screenplay. Best famous for regretful comedies like Hope Floats and Kate Leopold, Rogers was looking to re-invent himself—and, as it happened, a devise he was chasing could revive Harding’s repute in a process.

Rogers became preoccupied with Harding’s viewpoint of a 1994 Nancy Kerrigan attack—and a approach a media fashioned her as a knave in a figure-skating angel tale—after examination Nanette Burstein’s ESPN documentary, The Price of Gold. He shortly called a hit series on Harding’s central Web site, usually to strech a Motel 6 instead.

Eventually, Rogers tracked down Harding and flew adult to accommodate her. As arranged, Harding picked Rogers up. But since a passenger-side hoop of her lorry was broken, she had to open a doorway for him. She took him to a circuitously restaurant, where Rogers asked about her life—nudging her divided from revelation a same story she had been revelation by rote for dual decades. Though Harding told Rogers she had issues guileless people, she got along with a author good adequate to deliver him to her father and son a same day.

But behind to a pinky. On a automobile float home, Harding asked Rogers if she would have any control over a book he designed to write. Rogers pronounced no. But a probability of finally removing her story (whichever approach Rogers spun it) out into a universe was value a gamble.

“Are we gonna do this thing?” Harding asked.

“If we can get a life rights, we consider so,” Rogers replied.

She offering him her pinky, as yet it would concrete a plan.

“I was looking during her like, ‘You’re a 43-year-old woman!’” Rogers tells Vanity Fair. “But we couldn’t leave her hanging. we had to do it.”

So they pinky-swore in a pickup truck. But Rogers, who had been burnt by Hollywood himself—as anyone in a business some-more than 10 mins has—couldn’t assistance adding, “You know this isn’t binding, right?”

Sitting outward a Novel Cafe in Santa Monica, where Rogers wrote I, Tonya, a author explains a jump he took by reaching out to Harding and her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, who pleaded guilty to racketeering in a figure-skating story issue and was condemned to dual years in prison.

“I had never interviewed anyone, yet we did not tell Tonya that. No one was profitable me. Sometimes we consider my mind has a mind of a own. we demeanour back, and it’s surreal that we indeed did this—tracked down Tonya and tracked down Jeff and somehow wormed my approach in and got them to determine to let me talk them.”

“Their stories were only so contradictory,” remembers Rogers.

While conference polar-opposite perspectives on a same eventuality competence have confused other writers, a differences indeed crystallized I, Tonya for him. “I thought, ‘That’s my in! I’ll put all of a perspectives in there and let a assembly confirm what was what.’”

The outcome is a gripping, at-times hilarious, verbatim he-said, she-said that sheds light on Harding’s violent upbringing and initial marriage, and recasts a 1994 figure-skating liaison in a new light—showing how Kerrigan, with her exquisite costumes and Disney-princess looks, became a eminent plant in a media’s angel tale, while Tonya, who forsaken out of propagandize to figure movement and wore costumes handmade by her mother, was pegged as a knave even before a incident.

“I didn’t wish to write a required biopic,” explains Rogers. “I felt like a story was humorous and crazy and comfortless and all those things, and we wanted a screenplay to be that too. we felt like a characters in genuine life were reduced to one thing [in a 1994 news cycle]. And we wanted I, Tonya to be some-more nuanced than that. we felt like a characters were all unequivocally rebel and wrong-headed, that we found to be an engaging combination, so we wanted a screenplay to counterpart that. we enclosed all that things that they tell we we can’t do in a screenplay, like separate shade and voiceovers, and during one indicate Allison Janney’s impression [Harding’s mother] criticizes a screenplay.”

Rogers wrote a book on spec so that he could say some control over a devise and furnish it himself outward a studio system.

“Like a characters in I, Tonya, we was famous as only one thing,” Rogers says of his career. “Which we never suspicion was fair. I’ve been propitious to have cinema made, though a lot of times they’re unequivocally watered-down versions of what we wrote. we was famous as a man who writes regretful comedy. But that’s not all we am, obviously.”

Over a three-year routine of bringing this story to a screen, Rogers says a trickiest aspect was securing Harding and Gillooly’s life rights.

“Jeff didn’t wish to take any money,” says Rogers, explaining that Harding’s ex-husband still feels guilty for orchestrating a fibre of events that resulted in a U.S. Figure Skating Association banning Harding for life. “He pronounced that she never would have suspicion of job a genocide hazard [on Kerrigan], and she was a good skater and she got kicked out, and he doesn’t wish to distinction from it.”

“It took [Harding] a while since she doesn’t have a lot of money, and she wanted someone to [negotiate] pro bono,” says Rogers. Once he finally cumulative a life rights, a screenwriter flew behind to Oregon and interviewed Harding and Gillooly some-more intensely—recording some-more memories from both that were staggeringly, comically against to one another.

“To me, that’s what a movie’s unequivocally about—the things we tell ourselves in sequence to be means to live with ourselves. And how we change a narrative, and afterwards wish that to be a narrative. Which is because we done a film documentary-style. Because all of them are perplexing to change a narrative, we know?”

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