Netflix’s ‘May December’ is loosely based on the real-life case of Mary Kay Letourneau, who had an affair with a much younger Vili Faulaau, for which she also went to prison. The film presents the story from a fictionalized lens, bringing it to the audience from the perspective of an actress, Elizabeth Berry, who is preparing to play the role of the woman in the movie. Even for those unfamiliar with the real-life case, the age difference between Gracie and Joe in the movie is quite evident. Julianne Moore, in her 60s, plays one-half of the couple, with Charles Melton, in his early 30s. How does this age difference track with the real-life case?
Letourneau and Faulaau Had an Age Difference of More Than Two Decades
Mary Kay Letourneau was 34, and Vili Faulaau was 12 when the pair first engaged in a sexual encounter. The glaring age difference of twenty-two years later became the cause of a scandal and landed Letourneau in prison on two counts of second-degree child rape.
Letourneau first met Faulaau in September 1991 at Shorewood Elementary School in Burien when he was in second grade. The teacher noticed that the boy had a talent for art, and she helped him nurture it. This is where they first started to bond. “There was a respect, an insight, a spirit, an understanding between us that grew over time. There was a bonding that was pretty instantaneous. It was the kind of feeling you have with a brother or sister – a feeling that they’re part of your life forever. But I didn’t know what it meant. I felt that one day he might marry my daughter,” Letourneau said. Reportedly, she bought him art supplies and introduced him to the piano.
In the following years, Fualaau was not in Letourneau’s class, but they were still in contact. It was in sixth grade that he came to her class again, and by then, things had progressed quite a bit. “He was my best friend. We just walked together in the same rhythm,” she said. Reportedly, Fualaau once got a silver ring for his teacher, and she wore it “all the time,” except when her husband was around.
It was in the June of 1996 that their relationship progressed to sexual intimacy. At the time, Fualaau was a few weeks short of his 13th birthday. Reportedly, it happened in Letourneau’s house when her husband was not at home, and her children were asleep. Later that month, they were found by the cops in the back of her minivan at the Des Moines Marina, where they both lied about Fualaau’s age.
At the end of the summer of 1996, Letourneau discovered she was pregnant with Fualaau’s child, and early in 1997, her husband discovered her letters to Fualaau. At first, he tried to keep the affair and the pregnancy a secret, but eventually, he told his family, one of whom reported it to the authorities, leading to Letourneau’s arrest.
Letourneau and Faulaau’s first child, Audrey, was born on May 29, 1997, with Faulaau being barely fourteen. Letourneau pleaded guilty and received a considerably reduced sentence. Soon after she was released on parole, she was found with Fualaau in her car, following which she was arrested again. This time, she received the sentence of 89 months in prison, which was originally intended for her. By this time, she was pregnant with Fualaau’s second child, Georgia, who was born a few months later, on October 16, 1998, while Letourneau was in prison. At this time, Fualaau was 15.
Letourneau was released from prison in 2004 and married Fualaau in 2005. At the time, she was 43, and he was 21. They stayed married for 14 years, with their divorce being finalized in 2019 after Fualaau filed for separation in 2017. Talking about their relationship in an interview with Barbara Walters for ‘American Scandal’ on Investigation Discovery, the former teacher said that their relationship was strong enough to have survived the trouble they experienced since it came into the public view. However, when asked whether she and Faulaau would support a similar relationship for their children, they both said they wouldn’t and would be greatly upset by it. Fualaau said: “I don’t support younger kids being married or having a relationship with someone older.”
Read More: Where are Mary Kay Letourneau’s Kids Today?