Embarking on a role based on true events presents a unique set of challenges for any actor. The responsibility of capturing the essence of a real person, especially one involved in controversial or noteworthy circumstances, requires a delicate balance of empathy, research, and artistic interpretation. Julianne Moore takes on this formidable task in Netflix’s ‘May December,’ portraying the character of Gracie Atherton-Yoo.
Loosely inspired by the real-life Mary Kay Letourneau, Moore’s portrayal introduces an intriguing element — the character’s distinctive lisp. The attention to such nuanced details prompts questions about whether Moore has a lisp of her own, adapted this speech pattern for the role, or if it draws from Letourneau’s characteristics.
Does Julianne Moore Have a Lisp?
While portraying Gracie Atherton-Yoo in Netflix’s ‘May December,’ Julianne Moore introduces a distinctive lisp to her character, which is a notable departure from her natural speech patterns. Moore, known for her versatile acting skills, has demonstrated clear and articulate speech in various instances, both in other movie roles and during interviews. Notably, her performances in films like ‘Still Alice,’ ‘Boogie Nights,’ and ‘Far from Heaven’ showcase her ability to seamlessly adapt her voice to suit the demands of diverse characters. Moore is recognized as a methodical actor, often going to great lengths to authentically embody her roles.
In this instance, the deliberate inclusion of a lisp for the character of Gracie Atherton-Yoo in ‘May December’ exemplifies Moore’s commitment to crafting nuanced and authentic performances. In an interview, she talked about how she prepared for the role and she said, “It’s interesting, this movie was inspired by a particular case [the Mary Kay Letourneau case], [though] it’s not based on [that] case, but we very much used it as inspiration. And so when we were kind of looking at actual tabloid pictures, to recreate Gracie’s tabloid experience.”
Did Mary Kay Letourneau Have a Lisp?
Mary Kay Letourneau did not exhibit a pronounced lisp, but she did possess a distinct way of speaking, which many people call a “lazy tongue,” that became notable in the late ’90s when her “relationship” with her 12-year-old student gained public attention. She had two children with her student, Vili Fualaau, before he turned 15 and was a convicted child rapist. Letourneau spent more than seven years in jail for her actions and had her second child while she was in prison. As an infamous figure in the media during that period, she participated in several interviews, providing insights into her life and the controversial circumstances surrounding her.
In these interviews, Letourneau’s speech exhibited a unique and recognizable cadence, contributing to her public persona. Talking about how the inspiration for the lisp that Julianne Moore picked up came from, the director of the film, Todd Haynes, said, “I did not create the lisp. There are some people who are missing who could speak so beautifully about how they built these characters. We shot this movie in 23 days in Savannah on very limited resources, and that meant there was no rehearsal time. … It meant that the burden was on Julianne to completely come up with the specificity of Gracie, [which] was enormous. …”
He added, “Down to the cadence and her manner of speech, there were things in the loose upper palate that we did find interesting in Mary Kay Letourneau’s speech that was a kickoff for [Julianne Moore], and she took it further.” The significance of the lisp is particularly pronounced when Elizabeth (Natalie Portman), attempts to study and emulate Gracie’s distinct way of speaking. It becomes a vehicle for Elizabeth to immerse herself deeply into the psyche of Gracie, and therefore, transcends its role as a mere physical trait and emerges as a potent symbol of the profound impact Gracie has on those around her, adding layers to the film’s exploration of identity and connection.