Tonya and Nancy: The Inside Story

Last updated
Tonya & Nancy: The Inside Story
Written byPhil Penningroth
Directed by Larry Shaw
Starring Alexandra Powers
Heather Langenkamp
Theme music composer Dennis McCarthy
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
Executive producer(s)Brian Pike
Producer(s)Robert F. Phillips
Lynn Raynor
CinematographyAlan Caso
Editor(s)Terry Blythe
Running time95 min.
Production company(s) NBC Productions
Brian Pike Productions
Distributor NBC
Original networkNBC
Picture formatColor
Audio format Stereo
Original release
  • April 30, 1994 (1994-04-30)

Tonya & Nancy: The Inside Story is a 1994 American made-for-television biographical satirical-drama film written by Phil Penningroth and directed by Larry Shaw. It stars Alexandra Powers as Tonya Harding and Heather Langenkamp as Nancy Kerrigan and focuses on the 1994 Cobo Arena attack on Kerrigan and the extensive media coverage surrounding the infamous incident. It was released on NBC in April 1994, based on public domain material. [1]



The film portrays figure skaters Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, and the extensive media coverage following the infamous 1994 Cobo Arena attack on Kerrigan. It features a postmodern breaking of the fourth wall by having Dennis Boutsikaris play its screenwriter, addressing the audience over the course of the story. It also features, as labelled by Variety , various "witnesses" of Greek chorus actors, discussing their perspectives of different issues and themes as they emerge in the story. One of the last lines in it is "We imprisoned [Tonya and Nancy] in images we use to sell newspapers, soup, and TV movies. They're victims of those that the media serve". [2]



When asked about her role as Tonya, Alexandra Powers stated "In a lot of ways, it's the role of the year. Nothing like this ever happened in figure skating. Tonya and Nancy were all over the media, day in and day out. To me, Tonya has the best poker face I've ever seen. With all the controversy going down, she had a smile on her face. She still went to the Olympics. That makes an actor interested. She's either really innocent or deep in denial or she's insane." [3]


The film premiered on NBC on April 30, 1994, with a rating of 10.4 and share of 19. [4]


Ray Loynd of Variety stated that Tonya & Nancy: The Inside Story "intelligently captures the chaos of the source material. The story may reek of moral squalor and may already be played out in the print and electronic media, but the moviemakers almost make it look fresh." He enjoyed how the " Rashomon -style multiple viewpoints and array of talking witnesses, presented à la the movie Reds , continually propel the narrative", giving it a satirical tone. Loynd liked how Alexandra Powers portrayed Harding as stranded between figure skating's culture of gentility and her rural heritage. He thought that the film did convey the pressures of competitive sports and the relentless demand to win. Loynd also admired the postmodern perspective of a scene with television network executives debating how to tell this very story. [2]

Scott Williams of The Associated Press praised how writer Phil Penningroth framed the narrative cleverly, beginning with a close-up of Dennis Boutsikaris, as the film's screenwriter, musing "Sometimes, I think this could be a fairy of those strange dark tales, where monsters eat little children." He liked that Tonya & Nancy: The Inside Story was "interpretive", and thought it was generally well crafted, acted, and sometimes poignant. Williams wrote that Alexandra Powers successfully portrayed Harding's insecurities and vulnerability, and that director Larry Shaw kept the story engaging. He also wrote that, although the film could have been "a hasty 'ripped from the headlines' movie-of-the-week with cartoon characters...overacting stale emotions and restating public record", Tonya & Nancy emerged as less of an "evidence photo" and more of a character study. [5]

John J. O'Connor of The New York Times wrote that the story held few surprises, yet he too admired Phil Penningroth's method of structuring the narrative. O'Connor liked the Dennis Boutsikaris character alluding to fairy tales while addressing the audience about Tonya and Nancy: "Once upon a time there were two little girls..." He praised how various perspectives were offered regarding the caricatures of "Nancy the Good" and "Tonya the Bad". O'Connor also enjoyed the metafictional scene of television network executives discussing how to produce Tonya & Nancy: "an ingenious ploy to undercut any suggestion of NBC cupidity". He liked that the film commented about how the Olympic ideal has evolved and thought that James Wilder portrayed Jeff Gillooly as a compelling character. O'Connor believed that Tonya & Nancy: The Inside Story generally avoided the artifice of other docudramas that "have a nasty habit of distorting facts." He also believed Harding was portrayed with fitting sympathy, as the film chronicled her undoing. The last line in the film was the screenwriter feeling sorry for her: "Some fairy tales don't have a happy ending". [6]

Tom Jicha of the Sun-Sentinel also praised the film's narrative, but did not believe it offered an "inside story" with "significant information". He liked that two versions of Jeff Gillooly approaching the conspiracy meeting are presented, and that "it is up to the viewer to sort out what to believe". Jicha wrote that Tonya & Nancy: The Inside Story was "more Tonya's story than Nancy's", and noted that Harding's mother was portrayed as a greater "domineering" influence over Harding than Gillooly. He also liked that Nancy Kerrigan was represented compassionately with some dimension as she struggles with self-doubt. Jicha was also impressed that "NBC doesn't spare itself" in the cynical network executives scene. [7]

Tom Shales of The Washington Post did not believe the film transcended the "tedious account of that big news story all America is sick to death of". Shales wrote that screenwriter Phil Penningroth did explore themes of celebrity, notoriety, and media ethics – but did so inadequately. He wrote that one of the weaknesses of the film was that none of the characters had a chance to be credible personalities. Shales thought that portions of the film bordered on cliché, although he did concede to some effective comedic moments. He praised the performances of Powers and Langenkamp, stating "Alexandra Powers and Heather Langenkamp do look like Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan and do passable impressions." [8]

The Baltimore Sun [9] praised Langenkamp's portrayal of Kerrigan but was more negative towards Powers' performance stating "Ms. Langenkamp wastes a decent performance here, but Alexandra Powers of L.A. Law is woefully miscast as Tonya Harding."

The Los Angeles Times [10] gave the film a negative review stating:

"By sharply criticizing itself for existing, Tonya & Nancy: The Inside Story is television's first movie in years to have its own out-of-body experience. Unfortunately, that in no way enhances the experience of watching it."
"Ridiculing Gillooly, Shawn Eckardt (Dan Schneider) and their fellow conspirators as clowns, Penningroth and director Larry Shaw try for some of the dark comedy deployed in HBO's Emmy-winning docu-parody The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom . Instead, [this film] turns out to be just another dull movie about dull people. After squandering two hours on it, you may be asking: "Why me? Why anyone?"

Related Research Articles

Tonya Harding American figure skater

Tonya Maxene Price is a former American figure skater, retired boxer, and reality television personality. Born in Portland, Oregon, Harding was raised primarily by her mother, who enrolled her in ice skating lessons beginning at four years old. Harding spent much of her early life training, eventually dropping out of high school to devote her time to the sport. After climbing the ranks in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships between 1986 and 1989, Harding won the 1989 Skate America competition. She had been the 1991 and 1994 U.S. champion before being stripped of her 1994 title, and 1991 World silver medalist. In 1991, she earned distinction as being the first American woman to successfully land a triple Axel in competition, and the second woman to do so in history. Harding is a two-time Olympian and a two-time Skate America Champion.

Nancy Kerrigan American figure skater

Nancy Ann Kerrigan is an American former figure skater and actress. She won bronze medals at the 1991 World Championships and the 1992 Winter Olympics, silver medals at the 1992 World Championships and the 1994 Winter Olympics, and she was the 1993 US National Figure Skating Champion. Kerrigan was inducted into the United States Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2004.

<i>Wes Cravens New Nightmare</i>

Wes Craven's New Nightmare is a 1994 American meta slasher film written and directed by Wes Craven, the creator of 1984's A Nightmare on Elm Street. Although it is the seventh installment in the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, it is not part of the same continuity as previous films, instead portraying Freddy Krueger as a fictional movie villain who invades the real world, and haunts the cast and crew involved in the making of the films about him. In the film, Freddy is depicted as closer to what Craven originally intended, being much more menacing and much less comical, with an updated attire and appearance.

Heather Langenkamp American actress, film producer and prosthetic makeup coordinator

Heather Elizabeth Anderson is an American actress, producer, and prosthetic makeup coordinator. She began her career as an extra in the Francis Ford Coppola films The Outsiders (1983) and Rumble Fish (1983), before becoming known for her role as Nancy Thompson in Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and Chuck Russell's A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987). She also had roles in two of Craven's cult films: a victim in Shocker (1989) and a fictionalized version of herself in Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994).

Beavercreek, Oregon Unincorporated town in Oregon, United States

Beavercreek is an unincorporated hamlet and census-designated place in Clackamas County, Oregon, United States, located 6 miles (10 km) southeast of Oregon City. The population was 4,485 at the 2010 census.

Figure skating at the 1994 Winter Olympics Olympic figure skating events in Hamar 1994

The 1994 Winter Olympics figure skating competition was held at the Hamar Olympic Amphitheatre.

Nancy Thompson (<i>A Nightmare on Elm Street</i>)

Nancy Thompson is a fictional character in the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. She was portrayed by actress Heather Langenkamp in the series' first and third film, and by Rooney Mara in the 2010 remake, in which she was renamed Nancy Holbrook.

Dennis Boutsikaris American character actor

Dennis Boutsikaris is an American character actor who has won the Obie Award twice. He is also a narrator of audiobooks and for which he has won an Audie Award.

"The Understudy" is the 110th episode of the NBC sitcom Seinfeld. This was the 24th and final episode for the sixth season. It aired on May 18, 1995. This is the first episode in the series not to open with a stand-up routine.

Claire Waters Ferguson began skating at a young age and became a judge at age 16, working her way up to the national level and then to the Olympic level. She attended Michigan State University where she was a member of Alpha Phi and graduated with a degree in communication skills and English in 1957.

Sebastian Stan Romanian-American actor

Sebastian Stan is a Romanian-American actor. On television, he has played Carter Baizen in Gossip Girl, Prince Jack Benjamin in Kings, Jefferson in Once Upon a Time, and T.J. Hammond in Political Animals. The latter earned him a nomination for the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Movie/Miniseries.

Sarah Kawahara is a Canadian figure skater and choreographer who has won two Emmy Awards.

Alexandra Kristin Powers is an American former actress.

<i>Attack of the 5 Ft. 2 In. Women</i>

National Lampoon's Attack of the 5 Ft. 2 In. Women is a 1994 Showtime television film that parodies two sensational news stories from the 1990s: the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan incident, and the John and Lorena Bobbitt incident. The film is presented as a double feature, with Julie Brown starring in both segments. The title is a takeoff of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.

Lily Lyoonjung Lee is a Korean-American former competitive figure skater. She represented South Korea at the 1994 Winter Olympics.

The 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships were held at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. Medals were awarded in four colors: gold (first), silver (second), bronze (third), and pewter (fourth) in four disciplines – men's singles, ladies' singles, pair skating, and ice dancing – across three levels: senior, junior, and novice.

Tisha Walker is an American former competitive figure skater. She is the 1989 Prague Skate champion.

Tracey Damigella-Lohse is an American former competitive figure skater. As a single skater, she is the 1985 Grand Prix International St. Gervais champion, 1987 Novarat Trophy champion, 1985 Nebelhorn Trophy silver medalist, and 1986 U.S. national pewter medalist.

<i>I, Tonya</i> 2017 film

I, Tonya is a 2017 American biographical sports black comedy film directed by Craig Gillespie and written by Steven Rogers. It follows the life of figure skater Tonya Harding and her connection to the 1994 attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan. The film states that it is based on "contradictory" and "true" interviews with Harding and her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, suggesting they are unreliable narrators. It features darkly comedic interviews with the characters in mockumentary-style, set in the modern day, and breaks the fourth wall. Margot Robbie stars as Harding, Sebastian Stan as Gillooly, and Allison Janney as Harding's mother LaVona Golden. Julianne Nicholson, Caitlin Carver, Paul Walter Hauser, and Bobby Cannavale also star.

1994 Cobo Arena attack

At around 2:35 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on January 6, 1994, American figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was struck on the lower right thigh with a telescopic baton by assailant Shane Stant as she walked down a corridor in Cobo Arena in Detroit, Michigan. Kerrigan had been practicing skating on an ice rink in the arena shortly beforehand. The attack was planned by fellow American figure skater Tonya Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, and his co-conspirator Shawn Eckardt. They hired Stant, and his uncle Derrick Smith, to carry out the attack. Gillooly and Eckardt both claimed Harding was involved in the attack and had knowledge of it beforehand. Harding denied any involvement in, or knowledge of, the attack, despite Gillooly and Eckardt's claims.


  1. Seigel, Jessica (August 26, 1994). "Remember Nancy And Tonya?". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 11, 2018.
  2. 1 2 Loynd, Ray (April 29, 1994). "Tonya & Nancy: The Inside Story". Variety. Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  3. "Alexandra Powers Of 'L.A. Law' Laces Up An Attitude For Tonya Role". Orlando Sentinel. Philadelphia Inquirer. April 15, 1994. Retrieved August 8, 2018.
  4. "Tonya & Nancy: The Inside Story". TV Tango. Retrieved March 7, 2018.
  5. Williams, Scott (April 29, 1994). "NBC's 'Tonya and Nancy: The Inside Story' Transcends Its Genre". The Associated Press. Retrieved August 25, 2018.
  6. O'Connor, John J. (April 29, 1994). "TV Weekend; 'Tonya & Nancy: The Inside Story', NBC". The New York Times. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
  7. Jicha, Tom (April 30, 1994). "Insight's Out - In Tonya Tale - Film Is Slick Narrative But No New Details Emerge". Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved August 25, 2018.
  8. Shales, Tom (April 30, 1994). "'Tonya and Nancy: The Inside Story'". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  9. Bianculli, David (April 30, 1994). "'Most Wanted' looks for 300th fugitive". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  10. Rosenburg, Howard (April 30, 1994). "NBC's 'Tonya and Nancy' on Very Thin Ice : TV Review: The network criticizes itself in the movie, but that doesn't make it any better". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 7, 2018.