A few years ago, Steven Rogers was looking to make a change.
The veteran screenwriter had made a name for himself as a guy who wrote A Certain Kind of Movie.
He penned the comedic drama “Hope Floats” (1998) and the even more dramatic “Stepmom” (1998). He wrote the rom-coms “Kate & Leopold” (2001), “P.S. I Love You” (2007) and “Love, the Coopers” (2015).
These are sweet movies that tug at your heartstrings. They are a little melodramatic and a little funny and maybe, just maybe, a little corny.
But here’s the thing about those sorts of movies: They are not being made as much as the used to be. Blockbusters are all fantasy or sci-fi or superhero franchises. Comedies are all semi-improvised, a la anything by Seth Rogan or Judd Apatow. There kind of wasn’t room for Steven Rogers.
So he made some room.
As of 2018, he is known as the writer/producer behind the completely excellent “I, Tonya,” an extremely funny, oddly nonjudgmental and kind of ingenious movie about Tonya Harding — not just the scandal for which she is known, but about Tonya herself, from her hardscrabble start to, well, whatever she is doing now.
Now, some folks remember where they were when they heard that someone had clocked Nancy Kerrigan in the kneecap on Jan. 6, 1994. Those people are called very serious skating fans. Was Rogers one of them?
“I was not a big Tonya Harding or Nancy Kerrigan person,” Rogers said. We’re sitting in the Driskill during the Austin Film Festival, where “I, Tonya” has recently screened. “I’ve never even been on ice skates.”
Rogers says he had just written “Love, the Coopers,” a Christmas movie, and was looking for a radical change of direction.
About three years ago, he and his niece happened to be watching an ESPN “30 f0r 30” about Tonya Harding. Rogers was intrigued: “I remember thinking, ‘Nothing doesn’t say Christmas quite like this story.’” (Which is weird construction, but you know where he was going.)
He checked out the website to see whether the life rights were available. “I called the number for her agent and it was a Motel 6,” Rogers says. “I thought, ‘I’M IN.’”
Rogers eventually found Harding in Sisters, Ore., and set up a meeting. “We met just to see if we liked each other,” he said. “I had never interviewed anybody before, but I certainly didn’t tell her that.”