With Todd Haynes at the helm, Netflix’s ‘May December’ is a romantic drama movie starring Julianne Moore as Gracie Atherton-Yu and Natalie Portman as Elizabeth Berry, an actress researching for her role as Gracie in the upcoming film. A couple of decades ago, Gracie and a minor boy named Joe got involved in a notorious tabloid romance, after which the former even served a prison sentence. Fast forward to now, they are married with their twins about to graduate from high school.
When the Hollywood star Elizabeth arrives to stay with them to help understand and know Gracie better for her role, the relationship between the controversial couple unravels, with Joe finally starting to process what transpired in his youth. Meanwhile, as Elizabeth and Gracie get closer while studying each other, they discover differences as well as similarities in one another. The drama film navigates the difficulty and complications involved with fully understanding another human being, through the eyes of Elizabeth. Since the movie unfolds mostly in Georgia, especially in and around Gracie and Joe’s home, it gives rise to several questions about its filming locations.
May December Was Shot in Georgia
In case you couldn’t guess, ‘May December’ was filmed on location. The taping of the drama film was conducted entirely in the Savannah Metropolitan Area in Georgia. With about six weeks of prep work, production on the movie took place in the Fall of 2022, particularly for 23 days in the months of October and November.
Savannah Metropolitan Area, Georgia
For the purpose of shooting, the cast and crew of ‘May December’ visited the Savannah metropolitan area, particularly several locations in and around the coastal city of Savannah. Apart from that, a few sequences were also lensed in Tybee Island, a beachy paradise located in Chatham County. On being asked about the highlights of production in an interview, Todd Haynes talked about how the filming experience of every film depends on the uniqueness of the narrative and the vision of the filmmaker. He said, “My films have always been experiments with, at times, an inordinate amount of ambition and trying to get a certain amount of stuff shot with limited resources and time, which was absolutely true in this case.”
According to the filmmaker, the process of filming wasn’t devoid of a few unfortunate incidents. Shedding light on the matter, Haynes revealed, “Ed Lachman, who has been shooting my movies since Far From Heaven in 2002, broke his femur bone and couldn’t shoot the movie. So I had to get a new DP like, two weeks before pre-production. I’d never worked with Sam Lisenco, the production designer, before, but we had been planning a movie prior to this that didn’t happen.” Nevertheless, he embraced the challenges with open arms and went with the flow, ironing out the hindrances with renewed energy.
The director further said, “So we had to have a plan that worked aesthetically and conceptually with the script. I wasn’t pulling my hair out and freaking out the way everyone does in movies at some point.” He also opened up about the ups and downs prior to and during the shooting. Interestingly, Savannah wasn’t the first choice for the setting of the narrative; it underwent a change owing to the availability of Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman and other factors. In a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, the director couldn’t help but sing praises for how Savannah complemented the story and served as a perfect setting as well as a shooting site for a film like ‘May December.’
He stated, “It (Savannah) really provided this sort of strange and very specific setting for the world that we were telling. We sort of placed Gracie’s house in Tybee Island, which is about 20 minutes outside of downtown Savannah, and then Elizabeth’s Inn where she stays is in the historic district of Savannah. (It) served all of these elements in the film — its climate, its color palette, its strange, marshy, humid language…” Haynes concluded by saying, “We really utilized these interesting contradictions in the place itself that I think serves the film in interesting ways.”
Over the years, the charming Southern city of Savannah has become a popular filming destination, attracting the production of movies and television shows from across the globe. Besides ‘May December,’ the quintessential city has also served as a shooting site for popular film and TV projects like ‘Pain Hustlers,’ ‘The Menu,’ ‘The Gift,’ and ‘The Act.’