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Mary Kay Letourneau’s Ex-Husband Vili Fualaau Reacts to ‘May December’: “I’m Offended”

Vili Fualaau, the ex-husband of Mary Kay Letourneau, is speaking out about May December, the new film loosely inspired by his own highly publicized experience.

via: The Hollywood Reporter

In Todd Haynes‘ May December, Natalie Portman plays Elizabeth Berry, an actress obsessively researching a married couple with a scandalous past.

The similarities between the couple’s story and the Mary Kay Letourneau case — which May December screenwriter Samy Burch has cited as her inspiration — are striking.

But in an ironic twist, no one involved in the Netflix-produced May December has ever reached out to Vili Fualaau, who serves as the inspiration for Charles Melton‘s Golden Globe-nominated portrayal of Joe Yoo.

In the film, Joe is 13 when he is first seduced by Julianne Moore’s 36-year-old character. Fualaau was just 12 when a 34-year-old Letourneau first victimized him in 1996. Letourneau later pleaded guilty to two counts of child rape.

There are many other similarities. Both men are Asian/Pacific Islander — Joe is half-Korean, Fualaau is Samoan. Both father children born in prison. Both marry their female abusers after the women have served jail time for their crimes. And a key May December scene features dialogue (“Who was the boss?”) lifted directly from a televised interview with Letourneau and Fualaau.

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Fualaau has seen May December and came away deeply dismayed at what he feels is yet another example of Hollywood and the media exploiting his story and pain. What he can’t understand most is why he was never once consulted by the movie’s director, its screenwriter nor the actor — an awards season favorite — who plays a character so clearly based on him.

“I’m still alive and well,” says Fualaau, now 40 and still living in the Seattle area, where the scandal unfolded. “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.

“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,” he adds.

Letourneau died from cancer in 2020, as Fualaau sat at her bedside. Two years later, Fualaau fathered a third child from a new relationship. In September, he learned one of his two daughters with Letourneau, Georgia, is pregnant, setting the stage for him to become a grandfather.

His story has indeed been a saga, and Fualaau is not opposed to the idea of someone making a thoughtful movie about his life. But May December is not it, he feels.

“I love movies — good movies,” he says. “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],” Fualaau adds.

It is not uncommon for Hollywood productions to distance themselves from real-life people or events on which the project is based, often to avoid entanglement or allow greater creative freedom.

In interviews, the team behind May December has tried to create space between the film and its real-world inspiration. At the Los Angeles premiere in November, Burch stressed the case was only a “jumping-off point” and Moore said “this is not the story of Mary Kay Letourneau.”

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But on the same red carpet, Haynes acknowledged that the Letourneau case ultimately informed his film. “There were times when it became very, very helpful to get very specific about the research, and we learned things from that relationship,” he said.

Representatives for Netflix, Haynes and Melton did not respond to a request to comment for this story.




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