Posted by Larry Gleeson
Last night at the historic Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara, Calif. Alison Janney and Margot Robbie electrified the audience at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s (SBIFF) Outstanding Performers of the Year Tribute. Both Janney and Robbie are nominated for Oscars for their work in the film, I, Tonya. Janney is up for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, while Robbie is up for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. The evening was sponsored by Belevedere Vodka and was moderated by The Hollywood Reporter Award Columnist, Scott Feinberg.
SBIFF Executive Director, Roger Durling, made introductory remarks thanking the SBIFF Board, Board President Lynda Weinman, and the 700 volunteers who make the festival possible each year. And without further adieu, Mr. Durling turned the evening over to Feinberg, his tenth consecutive year participating in the festival.
Feinberg in his trademark, affable form introduced each actress’s work with a montage of images set to music. A warm Santa Barbara welcome was given and the evening’s main event transpired.
Interestingly, Janney’s father managed an ice rink in Ohio, providing Janney untethered access to skating time. While admitting she was proficient in both ballet and modern dance, Janney jabbed she could not complete the triple axle jump that Robbie did in the film. Janney attended Kenyon College where she was bitten by the acting bug. Fortuitously, she met Joanne Woodward and shared an interesting interaction she had with Paul Newman regarding her experience driving a Volkswagon Scirocco.
Meanwhile, Robbie was on the Gold Coast of Australia working as a “sandwich artist” at a local Subway shop while holding a position at a retail surf shop. A call from a talent agent led to her auditioning for a recurring role in “Neighbors,” a popular daytime television series in her hometown of Melbourne.
From these somewhat humble and inauspicious beginnings, two wildly different and highly successful careers were launched. Janney went on to win six Emmy’s and recently won a Golden Globe for her role as LaVona Golden, Tonya Harding’s mother, in I, Tonya. Robbie, on the hand, left Melbourne to seek fame and fortune in Hollywood. After her initial audition for “Charlie’s Angels Reboot,” fizzled, Robbie scored a coveted spot on the critically-acclaimed though short-lived “Pan-Am,” television series.
As fate would have it, Robbie managed to parlay her early experiences into a reel that first caught the eye of Wolf of Wall Street Casting Director, Ellen Lewis, and then the eye of Director Martin Scorsese for the role of the sexiest blonde on the planet. Robbie got the role. She proceeded to have a similar “hottest blonde” cameo appearance in Adam McKay’s The Big Short. Not wanting to be typecast, Robbie and a few friends started a production company, LuckyChap Entertainment from which I, Tonya is released.
Dreams really do come true.