Mary Kay Letourneau's Ex Breaks Silence on Movie Inspired by Them: "I'm Offended."
Vili Fualaau says he should have been consulted on May December.
May December, from director Todd Haynes, is one of the most talked about movies this awards season. The film is inspired by the story of Mary Kay Letourneau and her much younger husband, Vili Fualaau—a former student she was convicted of abusing. Though it doesn't depict the full true story of the real couple, May December undoubtedly calls back to the '90s tabloid scandal, and 33-year-old actor Charles Melton is getting Oscar buzz for portraying a character loosely based on Fualaau. Amid all the critical praise for the film, the real Fualaau just spoke out, slamming the creative team behind May December for not reaching out to him in a new interview.
In May December's fictionalized version of the scandal, Natalie Portman plays an actor named Elizabeth who is set to portray a woman named Gracie (Julianne Moore) in a movie and visits her family to gain some insight into their complicated past. Like Letourneau, Gracie was at the center of a major tabloid scandal in the '90s when she was imprisoned for sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy named Joe (Melton) and became pregnant by him. Gracie and Joe went on to get married and welcome more children. When Elizabeth enters their lives, their two youngest kids are about to graduate high school.
Letourneau and Fualaau were 34 and 12 when they met. In 1997, she was sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to two felony charges of raping a child. She wed Fualaau in 2005, not long after her release. They remained married until 2019. (They separated in 2017 but continued living together, according to People.) When Letourneau died of cancer in 2020, Fualaau was by her side. The pair welcomed two children while Letourneau was in prison.
May December got a limited theatrical release in mid-November and began streaming on Netflix in December, generating significant conversation. Now, Fualaau has made his opinion of the film known, telling The Hollywood Reporter that he is "offended" and would have been happy to collaborate if the filmmakers had contacted him.
"I'm still alive and well," he told the outlet. "If they had reached out to me, we could have worked together on a masterpiece. Instead, they chose to do a ripoff of my original story." The 40-year-old continued, "I'm offended by the entire project and the lack of respect given to me—who lived through a real story and is still living it."
Fualaau explained that he is open to a movie being made about his life but does not approve of May December's approach.
"I love movies—good movies," he told THR. "And I admire ones that capture the essence and complications of real-life events. You know, movies that allow you to see or realize something new every time you watch them. Those kinds of writers and directors—someone who can do that—would be perfect to work with, because my story is not nearly as simple as this movie [portrays]."
Screenwriter Samy Burch has opened up about how Letourneau and Fualaau's story inspired her.
"I really wanted a fictional story that dealt with this tabloid culture of the '90s that has kind of seemingly led into this true-crime biopic world we're in now, and kind of question that transition and why we want to keep recreating these stories," she said at the New York Film Festival in September, as reported by People. "That was the real jumping off point for me."
The movie itself includes some specific references to the real story, including an interview Letourneau and Fualaau did with Australian's 7News in 2018. In the film, Gracie and Joe have a conversation about their initial encounters in which she asks him, "Who was the boss? Who was in charge?" Letourneau asks Fualaau similar questions in the original clip.
Haynes told Mashable that he wasn't interested in Letourneau and Fualaau's story when he read Burch's script. "It's more about an excavation, trying to discover how these stories get circulated and—really—how families and people survive them," the director said. He added that Moore was more interested in researching Letourneau than he was. "I was a little resistant. I was like, 'No, no, no, we're doing a fiction. It's our own thing. It's different from Mary Kay Letourneau.' And she was like, 'No, check this out. It's crazy.' And so she led me into her life," he said.
Melton did explain why he didn't try to get into contact with Fualaau, telling British GQ, "No, I just wanted to stick to what Samy did, and create Joe with the blueprint she gave me in the script."
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