Based on real events and directed by Craig Gillespie, the dark dramedy chronicles how Tonya Harding transcended a hard-scrabble childhood and troubled marriage to become a two-time Olympic figure skater, only to have her career crushed in 1994 when her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly hired someone to incapacitate her rival Nancy Kerrigan at the National Figure Skating Championships.
Speaking recently at a Toronto International Film Festival press conference, Robbie said her scenes with Stan, who played Jeff, were among her favorites in a movie she described as "a really weird love story."
"There was the montage where it leads up to the police being there," Robbie said, referring to one of Harding and Gillooly's many violent altercations. "Craig, kind of on the day, was like, 'Just kind of do whatever in the moment.' We got so carried away that I genuinely forgot that we were on a film set and that I wasn't Tonya and that he wasn't Jeff and we got into this massive fight. ... It's not in the film. It didn't make the cut because it is really intense. But we got into this massive fight where he slams my hand into the door. We got into a brawl and, essentially, I ended up storming off down the street, which was the end of the set."
The actress went on to say Stan ran after her, screaming, "Where are you going, Margot?"
"And then I was like, 'I'm going to the hospital because you hurt my hand.' It was so ridiculous and I was so caught up in it and then I think I punched you in the side of the head when you picked me up. Anyways, it was all crazy. That ended up being my favorite scene because I forgot that I was acting completely and I forgot we were on a film set," Robbie said with a laugh. "Nothing makes me more exhilarated than when I genuinely forget where I am."
Gillooly wasn't the only physically and emotionally abusive person in Harding's life. The film also features Allison Janney as the skater's impossible-to-please mother, a woman who launches a steak knife like a dart into her daughter's arm during an argument.
"A lot of dark sides of Allison get to come out," Janney said, calling the role "therapeutic."
"It was a lot of fun, but very easy to [walk away from,] once the scene ended," she said. "LaVona has not haunted me. She was a great deal of fun to play and I have a soft spot in my heart for her. I know she is sort of tough to love, but I think she really just wanted the best for her daughter, which would mean the best for her, too. She saw her daughter as a ticket out of a life she didn't want to be in. But, in terms of doing the acting, it was easy to leave her on the set."
Co-starring Bobby Cannavale and Julianne Nicholson, I, Tonya opens in U.S. theaters Friday. The film is up for five Critics' Choice Awards.