Craig Gillespie – I, Tonya

Craig Gillespie – I, Tonya

Craig Gillespie Australian film director, best known for his film Lars and the Real Girl hes also been behind the camera on films such as the Fright Night remake, The Finest Hours and Mr Woodcock. I had the opportunity to talk to Craig about his work directing Margot Robbie in I, Tonya.. which follows the life of Figure Skater Tonya Harding and her connection to the 1994 attack on rival Nancy Kerrigan. 

I, Tonya opens in cinemas January 25. 


Hit play to listen to the full interview below.

Here’s a short transcript of some of the interview – listen to the full interview above to hear the entire conversation.

How did you get involved in the project?

Actually Margot Robbie was attached as a producer and to star in it alongside of Stephen Rogers who wrote it with Brian Unkeless and they were looking for directors and the script came to me and the idea of Margot playing Tanya was immediately intriguing to me partly because I just loved Margot’s work and what she can do between humour and drama and then I read Stephen’s script which is like nothing I’ve ever read before structurally it’s completely its own animal and just the humour and the drama and the violence and the comedy I’d never seen anything like and I thought Margot could do a brilliant job with that so I went in and pleaded my case and pitched myself to all the producers and finally had to pitch myself to Margot and we had a great conversation which I you know we really connected I think and obviously here I am.

Margot was also a producer on the film, what was the collaboration with her like through the entire process?

Well that first meeting that we had she sat down and she said look everybody talks about tone in the movie and this is an intangible thing it’s very hard to articulate but how do you get told in a movie. I love that she I ask that question because this so specifically was the tone of this film and you know I’d done Lars and the Real Girl which she’d watched that had a very specific tone to it and I have a lot of very technical ways that I approach it and try and get to that sensibility of it which we ended up talking about for 45 minutes and then her next question was how are you going to handle the violence in the movie and as I said I think it has to be brutal, I don’t think we can shy away from it I think for us to understand the emotional journey that Tanya went on in the way that she sees the world and that sort of defiance that she has and that anger that you feel in her we need to see where it’s coming from and it would be a disservice not to show it and we talked about that again and how to do it and how to portray it and had a really strong connection on how to approach the material and her work in it from then on I think we just kept feeding each other and that with such a similar sensibility all the time through the shoot and shooting scenes we were always heading in the same direction and you know the work kept evolving and the way they were we both kept pushing in the same direction it was so much fun to work with her on it.

The subject matter is based on a true story and you’re dealing with real life people, so how was your preparation on filming a movie that’s based on real life?

There is an enormous luxury of having all this wealth of information and we looked at so much footage on all of them we basically got whatever I could get my hands on and you know I watched all of Tanya’s performances from skating from 86 through 94 but then there’s so much media on Tonya and this incident and footage from before we found a Yale documentary which is actually that portrayal of the mother in the movie that really gives you this amazing leaping off point to work on the cadence of their mannerisms and their performance and how they how they interact with each other and you know wardrobe our production department and wardrobe style is very loyal to what they were wearing in that period, so it is amazing jumping off point you know after that obviously you know they’ve got to make their own characters and it is a dramatic performance that we’re doing that they’ve got to bring their own sensibility to but to have that start with there’s a huge risk for us now.

Alison Janney’s performance is incredible as Tonya’s Mum but I have to ask about the Birds?

It’s funny that that scene this is a very in the best way I love. There’s a very hectic shoot and there was always shooting a million things at once usually nine or 10 scenes a day and that day I was in the middle of shooting a scene with Margot and Sébastien and a literately one take away from walking next door to Alison in the living room and shooting her whole performance with the bird and my AD came in and said Hey I just heard from the bird owner that she will not allow Alison to smoke around the bird…  Are you kidding me? she’s been smoking around three-year olds and 10-year olds in the movie and she can’t smoke around a bird and they go it’s a nonstarter she will not allow it and so come out and Alison had been talking to prop guy saying they’re not going to let us smoke around the bird so I thought maybe we could do this oxygen tank she asked the guy for an oxygen tank with the nose catheter and the bird just couldn’t leave it alone and just kept pecking at it the whole time and several times I would ask Alison if she was ok and she’s like I’m good let’s go with it and she just worked with it. It was amazing.