LOS ANGELES (AP/WCMH) – Allison Janney even gave credit to the bird.
After winning the best supporting actress Oscar on Sunday for her turn as the hard-as-nails, chain-smoking mother of Tonya Harding in “I, Tonya,” Janney began her speech by joking that she “did it all by myself.”
After the raucous laughs died down, the Ohio native said there could be “nothing further from the truth.”
Janney then credited her co-stars, the others who worked on the film, her family, and even the bird who nearly stole the show from its perch on Janney’s shoulder in “I, Tonya.”
The 58-year-old Janney was considered all but a lock for the win for “I, Tonya,” a dark comedy that follows the figure skater’s life leading up to the 1994 attack of rival Nancy Kerrigan. She won nearly every major award she’d been nominated for leading up to the Oscars, including a BAFTA, a Screen Actors Guild award, a Golden Globe and a Critics’ Choice prize.
Janney was born in Boston and raised in Oakwood, a suburb of Dayton. She attended Kenyon College, in Gambier.
“We’re just so happy for her,” Janney’s father Jervis told the Dayton Daily News by phone shortly after she won. “We’re just so happy for her. She loves Dayton and always talks about all the support it gives her.”
Janney plays LaVona Golden based mostly on watching documentary footage of Harding’s acerbic mother. The role saw the statuesque, glamorous Janney wearing a ratty fur coat, an oxygen mask and oversized glasses, all while a bird sat perched on her shoulder, sometimes pecking her ear – details based on an actual interview with Golden.
“It’s like the bird heard me and said, ‘Oh yeah?’ Let’s see if you can ignore me when I’m putting my head in your ear,'” Janney told The Associated Press last month. “I thought this is exactly the kind of humor that is perfect for this movie. I kind of loved it; as much as it was irritating me, it was also fueling me as I was trying to get my side of the story across.”
Golden put Harding on the ice, funded her training and sewed her costumes with the little money she had, but – according to Harding – also physically and verbally abused her daughter.
Golden has denied abusing Harding.
“It’s liberating to play a character like this and have such a transformation,” Janney has said. “She’s this quirky, odd woman with so much anger and so much resentment. My heart broke a little for her watching these interviews because you can see underneath the denial of the hurt that’s there. It was a pretty harsh and hard and complicated mother-daughter relationship.”
For the Oscar, Janney beat out Laurie Metcalf (“Lady Bird”), Lesley Manville (“Phantom Thread”), Octavia Spencer (“The Shape of Water”) and Mary J. Blige (“Mudbound”).