KEY WEST FILM FESTIVAL

Actor Val Lauren channels his hero, Sal Mineo, in new bio directed by James Franco

 

Val Lauren has great faith in his good friend, James Franco.

Franco recently directed Lauren, a straight married actor in real-life, in two very gay roles: as actor Sal Mineo in a bio about the last 24 hours before the ‘50s movie star was stabbed to death in West Hollywood, Calif.; and as Al Pacino’s Cruising character in the sexy docudrama Interior. Leather Bar.

Lauren is in South Florida for screenings of both films on Friday at the Key West Film Festival.

“I not only trust his judgment, I trust his taste, trust the root that motivates, where everything he does comes from,” Lauren says of Franco, his pal since 1996 when they met at acting school in Los Angeles.

In Interior. Leather Bar, Lauren plays himself and “Steve,’ the Pacino character from Cruising, a 1980 shocker about a gay serial killer on the loose in New York City.

“The idea is I’m not playing Al Pacino, however great an honor that would be,” Lauren says. “I’m capturing Al Pacino’s essence.”

In Sal, a newly released bio available from Amazon.com and iTunes, Lauren plays Mineo, a one-time teen performer nominated for an Oscar opposite James Dean and Natalie Wood in Rebel Without a Cause (1955). Mineo later co-starred in director George StevensGiant (1956) and in Exodus (1960), which earned him a second Oscar nomination.

Warner Home Video this month released Rebel, Giant and Dean’s third film, East of Eden (1955) on Blu-ray. Mineo became close with Dean and was devastated when the older bisexual actor died at 24 in a car crash two weeks after completing Giant.

“I researched that quite a bit,” Lauren says. “At the time they did Rebel Without a Cause, Sal was not experimenting yet with his homosexuality. He did have an infatuation of sorts with James Dean. ... James Dean was much more of an older brother, protective figure to Sal. The dynamic wasn’t sexual. Maybe Sal had admiration and a boy crush.”

Mineo’s film career mostly dried up in the ‘60s and ‘70s. He concentrated on the stage, taking on roles in controversial plays like Fortune and Men’s Eyes, a 1971 men-in-prison drama featuring a young Don Johnson.

“You saw him buck naked with Don Johnson and seven other men in a shower on stage,” Lauren says. “People had never seen that kind of courage, balls so to speak, to enact rape scenes and shower scenes. He had courage. It was that same courage that got him outcast.”

Broke and trying for a film comeback, Mineo, 37, was stabbed to death by a stranger Feb. 12, 1976, as he arrived home from a rehearsal of the play P.S. Your Cat Is Dead.

Sal focuses on the actor’s last 24 hours. “He’s my hero,” Lauren says. “Sal Mineo lives.”

Actor Val Lauren appears 6:30 p.m. Friday at a screening of “Interior. Leather Bar” and 8:30 p.m. at a screening of “Sal,” both at the Key West Film Festival, Tropic Cinema, 416 Eaton St. kwfilmfest.com.

STEVE ROTHAUS

Read more People stories from the Miami Herald

  • Celebrity birthdays on April 25

    Actor Al Pacino is 74. “Dancing With the Stars” judge Len Goodman is 70. Actress Talia Shire is 68. Actor Hank Azaria is 50. Singer Andy Bell of Erasure is 50. Former “Early Show” host Jane Clayson is 47. Actress Gina Torres is 45. Actress Renee Zellweger is 45. Actor Jason Lee (“My Name Is Earl”) is 44. Singer Jacob Underwood (O-Town) is 34. Actress Allisyn Ashley Arm (“Sonny With a Chance”) is 18.

  • Billboard Latin Music Awards

    Andrea Bocelli: I was destined to sing

    Talk about an OMG moment for anyone who didn’t know that global superstar Andrea Bocelli kept a lair in South Florida. The famed Italian tenor showed up on Sunday for a solo hymn at Easter services at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Miami Beach.

  • At the movies

    Jared Harris: Olivia Cooke did something ‘special’ in The Quiet Ones

    Olivia Cooke is doing just fine, though the actress didn’t look it in The Quiet Ones, out Friday.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category