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Tonya Harding Gets a More Complex Story in ‘I, Tonya’

The infamous former figure skater is the subject of an upcoming Craig Gillespie biopic, set to hit theaters in December, with Margot Robbie playing lead


“America—they want someone to love, but they want someone to hate.”

So muses Margot Robbie’s Tonya Harding in I, Tonya—the upcoming Craig Gillespie–directed biopic about the life and times of the infamous former figure skater. The darkly comedic, obscenity-laden first trailer for the movie, released Tuesday, makes clear that audiences should expect a complicated though ultimately redeemable protagonist when I, Tonya hits theaters in December.

Harding was implicated in one of the most widely covered crimes of the 1990s, the clubbing of fellow skater Nancy Kerrigan’s right knee—the gruesome aftermath of which was caught on camera. After police discovered that Harding’s ex-husband had hired someone to break Kerrigan’s leg in a scheme to prevent her from competing at the Lillehammer Winter Olympics, Harding was exiled from skating. Her reputation suffered greatly, and her name became an American punch line. I, Tonya seems set to rehabilitate her image, recasting the vilified Harding as a plucky upstart, talented and troubled—an antiestablishment figure in a stuffy, elitist sport.

The film chronicles the two-time Olympian’s humble origins, her marriage at the age of 19 to Jeff Gillooly (played by Sebastian Stan, who decided to do a little promotional work for the movie on his Instagram page with … mixed results), her rise to stardom, and her subsequent fall from grace. It particularly focuses on Harding’s complex relationship with her abusive, alcoholic mother, played by Allison Janney, whose temper and foul mouth both tormented Harding and drove her to stardom.

Set to hit theaters December 8, I, Tonya will be eligible for the 2018 Academy Awards. The film is already garnering significant buzz for its two female stars, Robbie and Janney, and it seems like a happy (perhaps too happy) coincidence that final Oscars voting will be held during the upcoming Winter Olympics.