Image Credit: François Duhamel / Courtesy of Netflix
Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore’s Golden Globe-nominated film May December is facing backlash over its portrayal of Mary Kay Letourneau’s ex-husband Vili Fualaau. The real-life inspiration behind Charles Melton’s character, who is now 40 years old, slammed the movie as a “ripoff” of his life and explained why he is “offended” by it.
“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,” Vili told The Hollywood Reporter during an interview published on January 4. “I love movies — good movies. 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].”
Vili also revealed that no one from Netflix — the studio that distributed the film — “reached out” to him despite the fact that Charles’ character, Joe Yoo, is based on him.
Courtesy of Netflix
“I’m still alive and well,” Vili pointed out. “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.”
Based on Vili and Mary Kay’s controversial past relationship, May December follows Elizabeth (Natalie), an actress researching a new movie role about a former 36-year-old teacher named Gracie (Julianne) who seduced her 13-year-old student Joe (Charles) in the 1990s. In the story, Gracie and Joe are now married with high school-aged children.
Throughout the film, viewers see Joe question his and Gracie’s marriage. In one scene, the character smokes a joint with his son and admits to never trying it before. Toward the end of the story, Joe and Elizabeth have sex, but she insults him by implying that he never experienced an adult relationship.
In the final scene of May December, Elizabeth shoots a scene in character as Gracie while grooming Joe. While the director notes that they can move on, Elizabeth asks to film one more take, insisting that the experience is “getting more real” for her.
The real-life story of Mary Kay and Vili took place when they were discovered getting intimate in a car when she was 34 years old and he was only 12. She pleaded guilty to second-degree child rape. While serving her prison sentence, Mary Kay gave birth to her and Vili’s children. In 2005, the pair got married.
In 2020, Mary Kay died from colorectal cancer at 58 years old. Despite her and Vili having separated at the time, he remained by her side when she died.