Netflix’s new 'May December' drama was inspired by the criminal relationship between teacher Mary Kay Letourneau and her sixth-grade student Vili Fualaau
Netflix’s new drama May December — loosely based on the 1990s sexual assault case surrounding grade school teacher Mary Kay Letourneau’s abuse of her then-12-year-old student Vili Fualaau — has left viewers conflicted since its release earlier this month.
The film, starring Natalie Portman, Charles Melton and Julianne Moore, was promoted by Netflix as a dark exploration into the pair’s divisive relationship and has amassed overwhelmingly high scores from viewers while being received by some critics as both “twisted” and “deeply uncomfortable.”
The story it's loosely based on — and some of the moments that inspired the Todd Haynes-directed film — was often far more uncomfortable, as revealed by one resurfaced 2018 interview that inspired one of May December’s most harrowing scenes.
Letourneau was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for child rape in 1997 after repeatedly abusing Fualaau, one of her sixth grade students. She twice became pregnant with Fualaau's children before he was 15, despite court orders to keep them apart.
The couple married in 2005 despite the criminal history and public controversy surrounding their relationship. They split in 2017 after Fualaau filed for legal separation, but still lived together and were occasionally spotted out in the Seattle area.
They also both remained active in the lives of their two daughters, and Fualaau was at Letourneau’s side when she died of stage 4 cancer in 2020.
“I’m convinced they were totally in love,” Letourneau’s friend and former attorney David Gehrke told PEOPLE in 2017 after the couple filed for separation.
The relationship is being reexamined by the public once again with the release of Netflix’s new drama.
In one scene in particular, Melton’s character (loosely based on Fualaau) confronts Moore’s character (loosely based on Letourneau) about who was responsible for their relationship beginning. In the film, Melton’s character is chided by Moore’s, who repeatedly asks him, “Who was the boss? Who was in charge?”
On social media this week, viewers are noticing similarities to a clip from a 2018 interview Fualaau and Letourneau did with Channel Seven's Sunday Night in Australia, when their conversation with host Matt Doran turned increasingly awkward.
The couple’s interview with Doran appears to break down when the host begins to press Letourneau on why she still believed her relationship with Fualaau was appropriate despite him being 12 years old at the time it started.
Letourneau turns to Fualaau and instead questions him repeatedly.
“Who was the boss? Who was the boss? Who was the boss back then? Who was the boss back then?” she asks her husband, who begins uncomfortably looking back-and-forth between Letourneau and Doran without answering.
“Who was? Just say,” Letourneau instructs Fualaau again.
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“This is ridiculous,” Fualaau finally says after another awkward exchange. “This is getting weird.”
Eventually, Fualaau tells Doran “I was the pursuer,” after sharing another glance at Letourneau.
Despite living together after their initial separation filing in 2017, Fualaau and Letourneau officially divorced in 2019.
Since then, Fualaau has largely remained out of the public eye. He welcomed a third child in 2022 and earlier this year, his family revealed that Fualaau would become a grandfather after daughter Georgia announced her pregnancy.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.
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