James Franco Names Val Lauren the Lead in His Sal Mineo Biopic SAL

     May 10, 2011

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James Franco doesn’t have a lot of down time lately. As a director, Franco has landed the lead for his next project, the Sal Mineo biopic tentatively titled Sal.  Val Lauren will play Mineo, who is most famous for his Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination opposite James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause. The young actor’s life prematurely ended at the age of 37 when he was stabbed to death in a botched robbery. Those familiar with Franco’s work will likely realize that he won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Dean in a 2001 TV movie. Franco optioned the film rights to Michael Gregg Michaud’s Sal Mineo: A Biography late last year. Hit the jump for more about Lauren, what he had to say about Mineo, and the story being told.

The story will follow the life of Sal Mineo who, at only 16, was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Rebel in 1955. He quickly followed that with Exodus, where he found love, another Best Supporting Actor Oscar nom, and a Golden Globe win. However, his life of early success hit several bumps in the road. After publicly coming out of the closet, he was in the process of overhauling his image and his career when he died in 1976.

Lauren told THR:

“Sal Mineo himself was an extraordinary and super complex guy .  People know him for Rebel Without A Cause, but he was technically the first actor who came out of the closet. He was very brave.”

val-lauren-imageLauren is best known for the independent film Dallas 362 and will appear as a guest star on the season finale of Hawaii Five-o.

Contrary to much speculation, Franco will not appear, according to Michaud. Franco’s Rabbit Bandini production company will produce Sal, which will shoot in LA this summer off of a screen adaption by Franco based on Michaud’s work.

You can find a more in-depth description of the biography below:

One of the hottest stars of the 1950s, Mineo grew up as the son of Sicilian immigrants in a humble Bronx flat. But by age eleven, he appeared on Broadway in Tennessee Williams’s The Rose Tattoo, and then as Prince Chulalongkorn in the original Broadway production of The King and I starring Yul Brynner and Gertrude Lawrence. This sultry-eyed, dark-haired male ingénue of sorts appeared on the cover of every major magazine, thousands of star-struck fans attended his premieres, and millions bought his records, which included several top-ten hits.

His life offstage was just as exhilarating: full of sports cars, motor boats, famous friends, and some of the most beautiful young actresses in Hollywood. But it was fourteen-year-old Jill Haworth, his costar in Exodus—the film that delivered one of the greatest acting roles of his life and earned him another Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe win—with whom he fell in love and moved to the West Coast. But by the 1960s, a series of professional missteps and an increasingly tumultuous private life reversed his fortunes.

By the late sixties and early seventies, grappling with the repercussions of publicly admitting his homosexuality and struggling to reinvent himself from an aging teen idol, Mineo turned toward increasingly self-destructive behavior. Yet his creative impulses never foundered. He began directing and producing controversial off-Broadway plays that explored social and sexual taboos. He also found personal happiness in a relationship with male actor Courtney Burr. Tragically, on the cusp of turning a new page in his life, Mineo’s life was cut short in a botched robbery. [Amazon]

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