Fualaau, 40, spoke to The Hollywood Reporter, claiming he was never contacted by director Todd Haynes, screenwriter Samy Burch or Charles Melton, who plays a character who shares many similarities to Fualaau.
“I’m still alive and well. 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,” said Fualaau.
He added, “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 said “my story is not nearly as simple as” May December portrays it.
Letourneau died of cancer at age 58 in 2020, and was a Seattle school teacher sentenced to more than seven years in prison for child rape. The teacher was convicted of sexually abusing her sixth-grade student, Fualaau, in 1996. She later became pregnant with Fualaau’s children twice before he was 15 despite court orders attempting to keep them apart.
Fualaau was an adult by the time Letourneau was released from prison, and he petitioned the court to allow them to see each other.
The restraining order against Leourneau was later dropped, but she still remained a registered sex offender in Washington state until her death.
The couple married in 2005 but later broke up in 2017 after Fualaau filed for separation. As the split proceeded, the two still remained living together. He later was by Letourneau’s side when she died, and she left much of her estate to him in the will.
May December pulls inspiration from this story but set in Savannah, Georgia. The movie stars Julianne Moore as woman named Gracie Atherton-Yoo, who, when she was 36, began an affair with a 13-year-old at a pet shop where they worked, sparking a tabloid obsession. A Hollywood actress, played by Natalie Portman, later investigates the relationship while preparing for a role about their scandal.
At the New York Film Festival in September, screenwriter Burch explained how the story stemmed from the real events.
At that press conference, director Haynes said Moore, 62, took some inspiration from Letourneau when building the character, including giving Gracie a noticeable lisp.
“Also this idea of how does this kind of original relationship occur? What is the myth these two people tell each other about the roles they’re playing?” he continued of the subject matter. “She’s not a pedophile, this woman; she doesn’t have a history of going after every little teenage boy. There’s something very specific that happened to these two people.”
“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. “That was the real jumping off point for me.”
“All of these stories like this that are in the ether are just completely embedded in everyone’s cultural history,” Burch added.
“But it’s shrouded in a fantasy,” continued Haynes, “which is that she is the princess that needs to be rescued from the domestic tower, and he’s the young, virile knight, almost like a Greco-Roman young knight, who’s gonna come in with all this sexual virility and power and beauty and save her. And so she plays the little girl.”
Melton even spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the storyline and characters which landed him a Golden Globe nomination for supporting actor.
“Samy Burch’s script, there’s just so much in between the text,” he said, “and it’s so vast, in exploring these complex characters, and the complexity of who Joe is and what he represents, and just how he’s had to navigate his life really being influenced by having a kid at such a young age, and public perception, with tabloid culture, and just really leading up to him being an empty nester. There’s so many things to look at and understand.”
“That really was exciting for me: understanding repression and loneliness, and how certain emotions can live in the body, and how that would translate in storytelling,” said Melton. “It really just came down to prepping a lot….”
May December is streaming now on Netflix.