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James Franco Wants to Clear Sal Mineo's Reputation

James Franco Wants to Clear Sal Mineo's Reputation

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James Franco says he wants his film Sal to clear up public misconceptions about the 1976 murder of actor Sal Mineo, according to an interview posted on website Flicks and Bits.

Franco's film is adapted from Sal Mineo, the definitive 2010 biography by Michael Gregg Michaud and focuses on the final hours in the life of the actor, perhaps best known for his performance as a teenager smitten with James Dean's character in the 1955 classic Rebel Without a Cause.Sal premiered Saturday at the Venice Film Festival and drew raves for Val Lauren's performance as Mineo.

Franco says he first became aware of Mineo after he starred in the 2000 television biography of Dean. His interest grew after he read Michaud's book and realized there had been so much speculation about the real reason for Mineo's murder.

"Rumors about it being one of his lovers, or it had something to do with drugs -- and in fact the man they convicted had no idea who he was killing, it was just happenstance," Franco says. "It's become tainted by tabloid reporting, his memory has been tainted by rumors in certain outlets that can just write whatever they like -- it does have an effect on people's memories, public persona, or the way people perceive someone."

Franco says he wanted to set the record straight yet tell a story that other artistic people can relate to. "Sal embodies a tragedy that a lot of creative types go through -- where they have so much passion, and in Sal's case so much talent, but they are unable to practice their art." Franco then expounds on how some of Mineo's risky career decisions during the 1960s, including provocative films like Who Killed Teddy Bear? and gay-themed stage plays harmed his reputation.

"He could no longer act in the way he wanted to," Franco says. "To me that is a sad circumstance, that someone can't be expressive as they want to be. So I wanted to tell the story for Sal, but also for every kind of creative type in that position."

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