Allison Janney wins supporting actress Oscar for ‘I, Tonya’
Allison Janney even thanked 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, she 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 yes, the bird that nearly stole the show from its perch on Janney’s shoulder in the movie.
The ear-nibbling parakeet named Little Man “elevated my work,” Janney said.
The 58-year-old Janney was considered all but a lock for her performance in “I, Tonya,” a dark comedy that follows Tonya Harding’s life leading up to the 1994 attack of rival Nancy Kerrigan. Janney 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 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, much of it while Little Man sat 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.”
At the end of Janney’s charming acceptance speech, the actress turned serious.
“This is for Hal,” she said. “You’re always in my heart.”
Janney’s brother, Henry “Hal” Janney, committed suicide in 2011 after battling addiction.
After her speech, Janney returned to the theater where she was immediately swamped during the next commercial break by people wanting to take selfies with her.
When Janney arrived backstage to an interview room to talk with reporters, she promptly removed her shoes.
Then she quickly put them back on to show everyone that “usually the dress looks like this.”
She threw them off again. “My feet are bleeding,” she deadpanned.
Asked if her day-to-day life might change now that she’s an Oscar winner, Janney said she had to go right back to work at 10 a.m. Monday for a table read for her CBS sitcom “Mom.”
“I am so happy that I have a job to go to after something like this because it can go to your head,” she said. “I’m going to have a big crash-down after this so I’m happy that I have ‘Mom’ and the people at ‘Mom’ to lift me up.”
Earlier in the week, Janney said on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” that she had never been to the Oscars, even though she had been invited before. She didn’t want to go until she was nominated.
Backstage, Janney said she “didn’t dare to dream of things like this because I didn’t want to be disappointed.”
“And I think at a certain point I had given up thinking of this happening for me because I wasn’t getting the kinds of roles in film that would give me attention like this,” she said.
Luckily for Janney, her good friend Steven Rogers wrote LaVona Golden’s role specifically for Janney, “to show what I could do,” she said.
“I will never be able to repay him,” she said. “I think I’m going to get him a Rolex.”
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”).