Sal Mineo is the subject of a biopic by James Franco

Sal Mineo is the subject of James Franco's new biopic, 'Sal.' Sal Mineo is played by Val Lauren in Franco's film.

Andrew Medichini/AP
Sal Mineo's life story is told in the new movie 'Sal,' directed by James Franco (pictured).

Nicholas Ray’s 1955 drama Rebel Without a Cause may well have launched a lengthy and successful film career for its star James Dean, had Dean not been tragically killed in a car accident a mere month before the release of the movie. It was a death that was felt around the world, but perhaps less well-known is the story of Dean’s co-star, Sal Mineo, who played John “Plato” Crawford in the film and received an Oscar nomination for the role.

Actor/director James Franco played Dean in a 2001 TV movie and returned to similar grounds when he directed his recent biopic Sal, which stars Val Lauren in the title role and tells the story of Mineo’s success in the wake of Rebel Without a Cause, followed by the downturn of his career in the 1960s – around the time that he became one of the first actors to openly acknowledge his homosexuality. In 1976, at the age of 37, Mineo was stabbed to death outside his apartment in West Hollywood.

Sal was screened at a couple of film festivals in 2011 and is finally getting a limited US release this fall, and the trailer (above) is very much about Lauren’s central performance as Mineo.

It looks very much like a low-budget movie shot in a short amount of time (the production was reportedly just nine days long) by a director fresh out of film school, which is exactly what it is, but that doesn’t mean that Sal isn’t worth watching. For those with an interest in the actor’s life and death, even a sketched-out biopic is likely to be an enjoyable watch.

Mineo may well end up being portrayed on the big screen again within the next few years, as another biopic of Dean is currently in development, to be directed by Anton Corbijn (The American). This film will star Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) as Dean and Robert Pattinson (Twilight) as his friend and photographer Dennis Stock. Since Stock and Dean met in 1955, after filming on Rebel Without a Cause was already complete, the biopic may not cover the film’s production but could nonetheless feature actors playing Dean’s co-stars, including Mineo.

Between this trailer for Sal and the recently released trailer for Franco’s other upcoming feature, As I Lay Dying, do you have have confidence in his abilities as a director or would you prefer to see him focus on acting?

H. Shaw-Williams blogs at Screen Rant.

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