As if James Franco wasn’t already giving us enough questions to ponder right now (will he be nominated for Best Actor? does he really not want to be? will he be a good Oscar host? why is he returning to “General Hospital’?), news came from The Hollywood Reporter that he’s optioned the rights to the new Sal Mineo biography by Michael Gregg Michaud. Franco has a few indirect connections to the slain actor. He portrayed James Dean in a TV biopic (which surprisingly had nobody playing Mineo), and Dean co-starred with Mineo in both “Rebel Without a Cause” and “Giant.” Also, Franco is starring in the next “Planet of the Apes” movie, an origin story titled “Rise of the Apes,” and Mineo starred in “Escape from the Planet of the Apes.”
The big question this news raises is, who could play Sal Mineo? I’m also curious who could play his ex-fiancée Jill Haworth and his later lover, Courtney Burr, but their casting won’t be as significant or, more importantly, as difficult. Mineo was one of those actors with a certain look that modern stars don’t really have. He was more beautiful than “hot,” especially in his younger days before he grew his hair out. Also, I sense that it will be hard to find someone who can play the actor from his teenage days all the way to his murder at age 37, and I don’t think this is the kind of biopic that would do well with a division of duties. Different actors playing him in his prime and his later, less successful years won’t work as well. It’d also be nice to have an actor who can croon, for when Mineo dabbled as a pop singer.
After the jump I take a look at some of the guys being suggested around the interweb and offer my own ideas.
The Hollywood Reporter claims Franco isn’t currently interested in playing Mineo but that he could change his mind later on. Would he fit the role well, though? Maybe. It was hard to imagine him as a young Allen Ginsberg before we actually saw him in “Howl.” He seems to be able to do anything. Still, it’d be more fun to just see him make a cameo reprising his performance as Dean.
It’s easy to imagine Hollywood players pushing LaBeouf for the part since he’s a pretty big name and has enough of a resemblance to Mineo to pass for him, with proper makeup. His name has popped up on message boards for his bare likeness, but he also seems like the choice that would bring the most complaints from fans. As for a connection to the producer: it’s possible that he and Franco met on the set of “Freaks and Geeks” when LaBeouf played a school mascot on the TV series.
The site Muveez has a list of very Hollywood choices, including LaBeouf, Zac Efron, “TRON: Legacy” star Garrett Hedlund and, of course, Robert Pattinson. I think the “Twilight” star was surprisingly good as Salvador Dali in “Little Ashes,” and I’d like to see him try another biopic. Not sure if this is the best one, though.
Thomas Ian Nicholas
Recently seen as Rebecca Hall’s love interest in “Please Give” and best known for the “American Pie” movies, Nicholas is another being mentioned on message boards, but at 30 years old he’s likely not going to pass for the young Mineo that fans remember best. He does have the musical background, at least, having recorded a couple solo rock albums. He also previously portrayed Frank Sinatra Jr. Maybe Franco can get the effects geniuses from “TRON: Legacy” who gave Jeff Bridges back his youth so we can have “Rookie of the Year”-era Nicholas as “Rebel”-era Mineo.
But, hey, if digital effects are going to be involved, how about they just have Mineo play himself? George Lucas might be against the idea of resurrecting dead actors digitally for new movies, but Franco seems more the experimental type…
I’d also suggest the digital use of a young Marlon Brando for the part, since he and Mineo shared some resemblance. But instead of going the effects route, Franco could just cast Brando’s 20-year-old grandson, Versace model Tuki Brando. If he cut and dyed his hair he too could look like Mineo. Not sure if he has any acting skill, but that stuff’s hereditary isn’t it?
Mineo played a Mexican in “Giant.” So maybe a Mexican can play him in a biopic. I’ve seen Luna mentioned on boards and Twitter and he’s an inspired choice. He also worked with Franco previously in “Milk.”
The same person suggesting Luna also mentions this “Slumdog Millionaire” star, which means someone is very much into casting against race. But maybe he can be the new Ben Kingsley, another actor of Indian descent who has portrayed pretty much every ethnicity. Franco and Patel have never worked together, but they could easily be introduced by “Slumdog” and “127 Hours” director Danny Boyle. And while this would be a very odd casting choice, I can see Franco going with the challenge of making it work.
Too old and obviously the wrong sex, but there’s no denying the actress could look like Mineo if she got a haircut. Obviously this is a joke. I had to one-up the ridiculous notion of Patel, though, to make him seem more plausible.
My top choice is this star of “The Covenant” and “10,000 BC,” recently seen playing son to Andy Garcia in “City Island.” He’s a decent Stella Adler-trained method actor, who probably hasn’t yet had the opportunity to show his best, and he also has a singing career on the side. But his one major problem is he’s half a foot too tall. Would it be possible to overlook this issue, maybe by having him always perform while standing in a ditch and not show his lower half?