May December, Netflix's latest drama, follows an actor researching a woman who abused a minor when he was just 13.
So, here are just some of the things that went into making the film:
1.The movie was shot in just 23 days, meaning that there were "no Plan Bs" for if certain things didn't work. Director Todd Haynes told Deadline, "Nothing about this was spontaneous. We shot the movie in 23 days, so there was no room for spontaneity of any kind whatsoever, except in what the actors themselves did once I said, 'Action.'"
2.The script, written by Samy Burch, was partially inspired by a real-life case. She told AwardsWatch, "I didn’t do much outside research at all because I grew up in the '90s, I grew up in tabloid culture. I think we all, to a certain extent, absorbed all of that, the big picture element. I wanted to make sure all the details were fictional." Julianne Moore ended up watching an A&E documentary on the case while preparing for her role.
3.The script was initially set in the present day, but Todd moved it back to 2015. He explained to Vulture, "The original script for May December was set in the present, and I simply wanted to remove it from the Trump years and put it in the less intensely divisive years of the end of the Obama era. It’s set in Georgia — there would be some questions about political allegiance and the relationship of the cultural moment that would impede on the already crowded subject matter."
4.The music from The Go-Between by Michel Legrand was decided before the shoot and would sometimes even be played out loud on set. Todd said of their first scene, "I pointed to Ben, my assistant, I said, 'Hit it.' He punched his phone and started that first music cue. The whole crew was like, 'What the fuck? What is this? What are we doing?' And then three takes later, everyone’s humming it and singing melodies. We had an entire live chorus of vocalizing."
5.As there was no time to rehearse, Natalie Portman had to mimic Julianne's affect as she went. “The good part about it was that the way my character studied her to become her, I had to do also. So I had to, like, watch everything she did and go like, ‘How am I going to mimic that?'” she told Variety.
6.The mirror scene was inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s Persona. “A shot like this is a great idea, but it doesn’t work unless you have Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman," Todd told the New York Times. Natalie and Julianne couldn't actually see their reflections, as they were looking into a camera lens, so where their reflections would have been had to be physically marked.
7.Charles Melton, who plays Joe, was on vacation in Europe when he got the script. "When I saw who was attached, my heart just fluttered," he told A. Frame. He ended up cutting his trip short so that he could go home to record his self-tape audition, which took six hours to film. Another six weeks of auditions followed.
8.Todd did not know Charles from Riverdale before his audition. "I’m so grateful Charles Melton came into our consciousness," he told Vulture. "His looks were almost a deterrent. I felt that Joe would be a good-looking man, but Charles has that sort of hunkiness and pinup quality that wasn’t necessarily how I pictured him. He gained 35, 40 pounds for the role to change his chiseled self into something more familiar: a suburban man in this place. There’s such remarkable physicality in the choices he made as an actor."
9.Charles further spoke with his therapist and acting coach to prepare for the role. "I watched so many films that really were inspiring. I would spend three or four hours a day looking at different source material, doing some character work and research," he told A. Frame.
10.Natalie said that she and Julianne "could go back to being friends" once "cut" was called. She told Them, "I felt so safe and good with Julie and with Todd. It was such a nice atmosphere that, in the work, we got to be malicious, manipulative, and have some truth in it without feeling like it was ever anything personal."
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR MAY DECEMBER AHEAD.
11.When filming the rooftop scene where Joe and his son smoke weed, Charles would ask repeatedly for more takes. "Todd had it in the first few takes, but I kept on asking for another take, and then another take, and another take. As an actor, sometimes I think I can get caught up in trying to be bigger or wanting to feel something, and I get lost in telling my story as opposed to Joe's story, and I really learned that day that it's not my job to tell my story but the character's story — if that makes sense," he told A. Frame.
12.He further told the publication that he would cry in between takes of the scene: "I can cry for Joe. Joe can't cry for himself. Joe can't even ask questions for himself yet."
13.Speaking on the ending's ambiguity, Todd told Screen Rant, "I love the way it ended with a glimpse into the actual film that Natalie Portman's character is ultimately going to make. Finally, it's been cast and now we're watching the actual process unfold, but it's a circular process in this search for truth and the irreducible meanings about who people really are. And of course, we don't ever get there. We leave that in the hands of the audience."
14.And on the final shot of Joe, writer Samy told AwardsWatch, "I have my certain ideas about what happens to Joe. I don’t know that I should say too much to what those are. But I think it’s broken, but it’s also, it’s kind of an emancipation. What I see on Charles’s face in that last shot, which is so emotional every single time, is relief. I see it as his graduation, too, that he did it. He didn’t have to do this, but he raised these children, and they seem wonderful."
May December is now available for streaming on Netflix.