The movie portrays Harding's rough upbringing under a domineering mother in OR and then the attack that made her a notorious sports figure.
Figure skating was Janney's childhood passion and although she doesn't perform any double axels in "I, Tonya", her role is expected to bring the former "West Wing" actress her first Oscar nomination next month.
There's a surprising depth to "I, Tonya", too, as the sheer resilience of Harding stirs.
Ahead of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, figure skater Nancy Kerrigan suffered a broken leg, keeping her out of the games.
Janney plays LaVona Harding, who bullies and beats her young daughter to reach the top of a sport.
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The culprits, fellow USA skater Tonya Harding's ex-husband Jeff Gillooly and bodyguard Shawn Eckhardt, were soon caught.
"She is sort of a monster on the page and I had to find her humanity, and what she wanted in life".
(L-R) Craig Gillespie, Sebastian Stan, Steven Rogers, Allison Janney, Tonya Harding, Paul Walter Hauser, Margot Robbie and Tom Quinn attend the after party for the premiere of "I, Tonya" on December 5, 2017 in Hollywood, California. Actually, it was a lot more complicated than that, the story of what happened to her.
Unfortunately, "I, Tonya" moves too quickly and incorporates too many different points of views to ever make these elements really connect, while the skating scenes flounder because of some very ropey special effects. "She does care", said Janney. As Harding, Robbie unleashes an extra dimension to her acting talents, fearlessly carrying the film while dancing between comedy and drama, and on at least two occasions she will leave you dazzled with the emotion she conveys. "I don't think we exonerate her completely but I don't think she is as guilty as we all remember her to have been", she said.