How accurate is “I, Tonya”? The movie got SOME things wrong

By now, you’ve likely heard of the movie, I Tonya if not seen it in theaters more than once. It was nominated for a slew of awards at the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild shows, and also got three 2018 Oscar nods. I, Tonya is based on the true story of United States figure skater Tonya Harding. The film would have gotten a lot of attention regardless, but because it was released around the same time the 2018 Winter Olympic Games came on (lots of figure skating!), it really caught people’s attention. The movie tells a slightly different story about Harding than many of us are used to hearing, which has led a lot of people to wonder how accurate I, Tonya really is.

Need a refresher on the real life story? Tonya Harding is a retired U.S. figure skating champion. In 1991, she became the second woman in history to be able to land a triple axel in a competition. Harding was an excellent skater, but she became involved in a controversy that eventually ended that career.

In 1994, her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, planned an attack on U.S. Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan after a practice session at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Gillooly, along with Kerrigan’s bodyguard, Shawn Eckhardt, hired a man, Shane Stant, to break Kerrigan’s right leg so she couldn’t compete in the Olympics. Although he ended up only bruising her leg, she still had to withdraw from the national championship — but made it to Olympics, where she won the silver medal.

Many people believed that Harding was behind the planned attack on Kerrigan, and so Harding was stripped of her 1994 figure skating championship medal and banned from the sport. She went on to become a professional boxer, and the public has always had a fascination with her and the question of “did she or didn’t she?” I, Tonya is just the latest in exploring her story.

So, is the movie very realistic? As History Vs. Hollywood points out, the movie is based on versions of true events, not actual true events, so it makes it tough to differentiate between what’s real and what isn’t. I, Tonya is also largely told from Harding’s side of the story, although screenwriter Steve Rogers also based his script on Gilloly’s perspective. The exes’ stories never matched up, which makes things even more confusing.

Were Kerrigan and Harding actually rivals?

I, Tonya shows that the two skaters were fierce rivals, and that is sort of true. They were both competing for gold at the Olympics and went up against each other very often. But Harding told ABC that the two were competitors, yes, but still “friendly.”


Did Harding’s mother abuse her?

In I, Tonya, it becomes clear that Harding’s mother was very severe and physically and emotionally abused her. Unfortunately, this is true. Harding has stated this herself, and in a 2017 interview, her mother confirmed they don’t speak.

It’s unclear if her mother, LaVona, actually threw a knife at her, but she did hit her with a hairbrush and didn’t let her off the ice to pee.

Did Harding’s public persona affect her scores?

This is also true. Harding’s personality never matched up to what judges wanted a figure skater’s personality to be, and they would hold that against her despite her amazing talent.

Did Harding really not know about the planned attack?

The movie will end up making you feel sorry for Harding — and will definitely make you question whether she knew about the attack or not. In 1994, the United States Figure Skating Association did an investigation and believed that Harding did know, but it is something she denies to this day. Margot Robbie, who plays Harding in the movie, has stated she is “100 percent” on her side.

Did Harding really tell off a judge like she did in the movie?

In I, Tonya, Harding tells off a judge, saying, “suck my d***.” This did not happen in real life, and was made up for the movie.

Did Harding’s half-brother really sexually assault her?

Unfortunately, this is true — although the details in the film are not totally accurate. In real life, Harding was not able to fight him off, and the event was far more terrifying. According to Vulture, “Creepy Chris” tried to kiss her while she was getting ready for her first date with Gillooly, and she ended up burning him with her curling iron, running to her room to hide from him, hitting him with a hockey stick, and then running to her neighbor’s house to get away from him.

Did Harding receive death threats?

She did, before a regional competition.

Did Harding really make her own fur coat?

According to Vulture, it’s unclear. But that was some fur coat.