Margot Robbie defends domestic violence depiction in I, Tonya

Margot Robbie has defended the portrayal of domestic violence in her new film, saying that to water it down would be a “disservice” to victims.

The Oscar-nominated actress stars in a biopic of Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding, who was banned from the sport after an attack on her fellow competitor, Nancy Kerrigan.

I, Tonya features harrowing depictions of abuse, from both Harding’s mother LaVona, played by Allison Janney, and her husband, Jeff Gillooly, played by Sebastian Stan.

The scenes are juxtaposed with Robbie breaking the fourth wall to speak directly to the audience and make jokes and the actress said she discussed balancing the tone at length with director Craig Gillespie.

She told the Press Association: “The violence is something that we spoke about at length and it was definitely our biggest concern along with how to execute the tone.

“That was very specific on the page and we discussed it a lot and Craig said ‘You can’t shy away from it, it is horrific, the violence should be uncomfortable to watch.

“If we sugarcoat it we are doing quite a disservice to anyone who has suffered that, to brush it under the rug as if it didn’t happen or to make it seem like it’s not that bad, or easier to endure.

“But at the same time trying to make sure an audience can keep watching that for a long time is a tricky dance and Craig came up with the idea of breaking the fourth wall in those moments and seeing her emotionally disconnect to what is happening to her physically at the time.

“I think that was a very truthful approach and all you can do in art is try to approach everything as truthfully as possible.”

Reflecting on the film’s release as the Me Too and Time’s Up movements dominate debate in Hollywood and the wider world, she said: “It’s a strange thing, the themes this film touch on, the themes that we wanted to focus on and discuss and let an audience discuss during the process of seeing the film have to do with class-ism and abuse towards women and if they are believed when they come forward.

“Having said that, we recognise those topics as being important and something society needed to discuss but we didn’t know that it would be as loudly discussed as it is right now.

“Trump wasn’t president when Steven (Rogers) wrote the script, yet he still felt that there was a class divide in America, it just became more in the last year or so.

“Likewise, abuse against women was something that was hugely prevalent in Tonya’s life but the Me Too movement, the Time’s Up` movement hadn’t begun when we were filming so it is very sadly ironic that it has become so topical but the best way forward is for all of us to discuss it.”

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Margot Robbie and Allison Janney at the film’s UK premiere (Ian West/PA)</figcaption>
Margot Robbie and Allison Janney at the film’s UK premiere (Ian West/PA)

The film has been produced by Robbie’s own production company, and she said that is the only way she could secure a role like Harding.

She said: “Being a producer on this film and having a production company, I do feel like I’m shaping my career in a way that I want it to be shaped and not just waiting, hoping.

“I don’t think someone would have just given me this role if I hadn’t gone out after it and I wasn’t really prepared to wait 10, 15 years until something like this came along, I wanted to do that now.

“The production company’s purpose isn’t to have starring vehicles for me but for any actress. We want female-driven content and female storytellers.”

I, Tonya is released in UK cinemas on February 23.

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