“May December” inspiration Vili Fualaau is speaking out about being portrayed in Todd Haynes’ awards season powerhouse, and he’s not happy.

The film draws loose but obvious inspiration from the infamous 1990s scandal in which Mary Kay Letourneau, then 34, victimized 12-year-old Fualaau, leading to her eventually pleading guilty to two counts of child rape. A few details have been changed for the film: in real life, Letourneau was a sixth-grade teacher and Fualaau was her student, whereas in the movie Julianne Moore’s character Gracie Atherton-Yoo worked at a pet shop where she preyed on her 13-year-old colleague, Joe (Charles Melton).

But these slightly altered details aside, as well as the “May December” largely avoiding discussing the real-life scandal itself, the film very closely aligns with details of Letourneau and Fualaau’s life, down to the idyllic beach house photo shoot the real couple engaged in in 2006 to celebrate their one-year wedding anniversary. Or how Letourneau’s “lazy tongue,” in Haynes’ words, inspired Gracie’s lisp in the film.

For his part, Fualaau says no one from the Netflix film’s team reached out to him at any point of production.

Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualauu

“I’m still alive and well,” Fualaau, who’s now 40, told The Hollywood Reporter. He had separated from Letourneau in 2019 but says he was by her side when she died from cancer a year later. “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.”

“I love movies — good movies,” he added. “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].”

IndieWire has reached out to distributor Netflix for comment.

Melton, who plays Joe Yoo, Fualaau’s stand-in in the movie, has been the toast of awards season so far, winning prizes at the Gotham Awards and the New York Film Critics Circle Awards as well as Golden Globe and Independent Spirit Awards nominations.

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