Film editor Tatiana S. Riegel admits that when she was first approached to lend her talents to “I, Tonya” she “didn’t have much of an interest” in working on a film about notorious figure skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie). After all, what more could you really say about her story that hadn’t already been covered in the tabloids? “I definitely did not imagine this film,” she says, “and what I initially imagined, I think, is what many people might think it is.” Upon reading Steven Rogers‘s original screenplay, however, she “got extremely excited about doing it,” recognizing the delicate balance of absurdity and tragedy that director Craig Gillespie would be going for. Her decision to do the film paid off with an Oscar nomination and a victory for Best Comedy Editing at the ACE Eddie Awards. Watch our exclusive video interview with Riegel above.
“It’s a very emotional and tragic story,” says Riegel of the film, which recounts how Harding’s skating career was cut short when her ex-husband (Sebastian Stan) bumbled into a conspiracy to break the leg of her Olympic challenger Nancy Kerrigan. But at the same time it’s “extremely funny and just absurd.” Careening between those two extremes can be very difficult, so the way Riegel approached her work was “to always go for the reality, go for the truth,” without trying too hard for laughs. “The story brings in the comedy and everything in a very natural way because it’s true,” she explains. “All of that humor was naturally brought in by the absurdity.”
The veteran cutter also had to piece together the various ice skating scenes featured throughout the story. “Each sequence had its own identity and personality,” she explains. “The ones earlier in the film” are “very aggressive and young, and attitude-y and fast.” But the final sequence, after Harding has been disgraced by scandal, is “tense, and it’s all in one shot.” She adds, “It was really, really fun, not only just to cut the skating,” but “to really give it a depth and character in-and-of itself.”
Riegel previously collaborated with Gillespie on “Lars and the Real Girl” (2007), “Fright Night” (2011), “Million Dollar Arm” (2014), and “The Finest Hours” (2016). Prior to winning the ACE Eddie for “I, Tonya,” she triumphed at the guild in their Mini/Movie category for “The Half-Life of Timofey Berezin” (2006). Will she add an Oscar to her mantel?
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