Allison Janney and Margot Robbie Honored at Film Festival
Allison Janney and Margot Robbie interviewed by Scott Feinberg (All photos: Fritz Olenberger)
I, Tonya stars Allison Janney and Margot Robbie were honored as Outstanding Performers of the Year at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on Thursday.
The evening was presented by Belvedere Vodka at the Arlington Theatre and was moderated by Scott Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter.
As Critics’ Choice Award winners, Janney and Robbie were honored for their remarkable performances in I, Tonya. Both actresses have also received nominations at the BAFTAs and SAG Awards for their respective roles, and Janney was awarded a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress. For this year's Academy Awards, Robbie is nominated for Best Actress, Janney for Best Supporting Actress, and the entire film for Best Editing.
“Allison and Margot bring biting humor and an emotional resonance to their real-life characters in I, Tonya,” stated SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling. “We are proud to celebrate them and their incredible contributions to cinema.”
If you're unfamiliar with the film or refused to look at a television and/or magazine in the mid 90's, I, Tonya is a biographical film that follows the life of figure skater Tonya Harding and her connection to the 1994 attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan. The film showcases interviews with the characters in mockumentary-style that's set in modern day. Robbie stars as Harding and Janney plays Harding's allegedly abusive mother, LaVona Fay Golden.
Robbie, an Australian native, received her biggest commercial role in Martin Scorsese's critically acclaimed film The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). She then received leading roles in the romantic drama Focus (2015), the action-adventure film The Legend of Tarzan (2016), and the superhero film Suicide Squad (2016). In 2014 Robbie launched a production company named LuckyChap Entertainment which produced I, Tonya making her a producer and lead role in the film.
Before getting an acting role, Robbie had three jobs at the same time at 16-years-old. "I was a sandwich artist at Subway, a house cleaner, and worked in retail at a surf shop," said Robbie. She then landed her first role on Neighbours, a popular Australian night-time soap opera, where she played Donna Freedman for three years.
At age 21, Robbie auditioned for the role of Duchess in The Wolf of Wall Street and said every single person was up for that role, but her goal was to impress Ellen Lewis, the casting agent. She was flown out to read with Leonardo Di Caprio and Martin Scorsese. While really getting into the scene and the volatile relationship between her character and Di Caprio's, the scene prompted for a kiss, but she felt it was more appropriate to slap him, which she did and they loved it.
Janney is a veteran star of the big and small screen. She's a seven-time Primetime Emmy Award winner for her television work, her first four Emmy wins were for her in The West Wing (1999–2006). In 2014, she won the Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for her role in Masters of Sex. In 2014 and 2015, she won the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her long-running role in the sitcom Mom (2013–present).
When talking about her iconic character C.J. Cregg, Janney said she didn't feel a show about politics at that time would hold any interest even though it was really well-written. Now that the show is on Netflix, Janney said, "I realize how much comfort that series gives to people right now." She also discussed how women and young girls still tell her how C.J. was a strong role model.
Starting her career in theatre, she made her Broadway debut in 1996 where she received two Tony Award nominations for two different plays. Her long list of film credits includes 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), The Hours (2002), Finding Nemo (2003), Juno (2007), The Way, Way Back (2013), Get On Up (2014), and The Girl on the Train (2016). Among her previously listed awards for I, Tonya, she also received the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture for her roles in American Beauty (1999) and The Help (2011).
Feinberg brought up an interesting fact about Janney that many might not know, she was actually a talented figure skater with dreams of making it to the Olympics. She explained that her father was a realtor and owned a building that housed an ice skating rink which gave her free ice time and she loved skating. Tragically, at age 17, when she crashed through a plate glass window which injured her leg and forced her to quit ice skating. "The universe was telling me, no, you won't be a skater," said Janney.
When talking about her early days of acting, Janney described feeling frustrated and was about to quit so she took an aptitude test to see what other skills she had for different jobs. "They came back and said, you'd make a great Systems Analyst," she said. Since she didn't know what that was, she went back to acting. "I still don't know what that is," she joked.
I, Tonya director Craig Gillespie, also known for directing Lars and the Real Girl (2007), the remake of Fright Night (2011), and The Finest Hours (2016), presented the awards.
Janney and Robbie will join a recognized group of previous Outstanding Performer Award recipients, including Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, Brie Larson and Saoirse Ronan, Steve Carell, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lawrence, Viola Davis, Colin Firth, Penelope Cruz, Angelina Jolie, Helen Mirren, Heath Ledger, Kate Winslet, and Charlize Theron.