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'I, Tonya’ Wants You To Feel Sorry For Tonya Harding, Columnist Says

Tonya Harding followed by the media in an AP file photo.
Tonya Harding followed by the media in an AP file photo.
This article is more than 1 year old.

Figure skating chronicler Christine Brennan has seen the Tonya Harding biopic "I, Tonya" twice now, and she has a few journalistic quibbles about its portrayal of an iconic, outrageous moment of the 1990s.

"The movie does want to make you feel sorry for her,” Brennan, columnist for USA Today, told On Point guest host Tom Gjelten in an appearance Wednesday. “As a journalist, I don't buy it. And I think that we need to remember one thing here: Someone was attacked. And in fact, they wanted to hurt her badly.”

That someone was Nancy Kerrigan, a Massachusetts native who was attacked with a metal baton after practice before the 1994 Olympics. The attackers had plotted with Harding's ex-husband.

Kerrigan suffered a knee bruise and won a silver medal at the 1994 Winter Olympics.

Brennan wrote a book on figure skating in the 1990s and interviewed Nancy Kerrigan and Harding in 2014, 20 years later.

Brennan was on the show Wednesday to discuss the re-examination of Harding’s life in the film, starring Margot Robbie. The full show — we also spoke with "I, Tonya" director Craig Gillespie and Olympic figure skater Alice Cook about the culture of figure skating — can be found here.

"It was the most bizarre, dramatic, crazy, comedic and tragic script I've ever read."

Director Craig Gillespie

Gillespie explained why he took up the project.

"It was the most bizarre, dramatic, crazy, comedic and tragic script I've ever read,” Gillespie said.

The film explores Harding's difficult upbringing, with a turbulent childhood and the abuse she suffered at the hand of her mother and her ex-husband.

Harding became an iconic villain and a cultural punchline after the attack on Kerrigan. Harding denied being involved in the plot, but the film leaves many questions unresolved.

The task of the film, Gillespie said, was “not to condone what happened at all but just to maybe have an understanding and an empathy for what she went through and the journey from her childhood to this moment that happened that was so iconic in our culture.”

This segment aired on December 13, 2017. The audio for this segment is not available.

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