James Franco Directing Sal Mineo Biopic: 'It Was The Tragedy of an Artist,' Says Star

James Franco is currently directing a biographical film about the life of artist Sal Mineo. Franco recently spoke about why he wanted to direct the Mineo film, and what the experience has been like so far.

It seems Franco was drawn to the story of Sal Mineo's life because of the highs and lows of his career, as well as his tragic death.

"I thought he was a great example of a passionate artist, and I really liked his work. I also thought his story was tragic, not only because he was murdered, but right before that, his career had faded. He worked very hard in his career, he wanted to direct, he was planning to direct an adaptation of a book, and so I could relate in a lot of ways. It was the tragedy of an artist who can't practice the art in the way that he used to be able to," Franco said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.

Val Lauren will be playing Sal in the movie, and apparently Franco had always had his heart set on Lauren in that role.

"I'd known for years that if I ever did something about Sal Mineo, that Val Lauren would play him. I'd known Val for over 15 years. We met in our first acting class, and we'd joke about - it was sort of a joke and sort of not - about doing a one act play, where I would play James Dean, and he would play Sal Mineo," Franco told Entertainment Weekly. "But Val was kind of delusional at the time, and he thought he should play James Dean and I should play Sal Mineo [laughs]. I put that Sal Mineo idea on the back burner, and then the book came out, and I thought, 'Alright!' I was like, 'Val, would you be up for this?" and he was like Yeah!'"

Franco also discussed the experience of directing the film, saying that his time at film school proved helpful.

"It was my second feature after going to NYU film school, and I was sort of used to, at that point, making period films that were set in the '70s with very modest budgets. I depended on my production designer and producers a lot, who helped me find the locations that still looked like the '70s. When we made Sal, we were really good at it, and I had a great actor who was perfect for the role. We had to fill in the world around him and make sure that that was at the same level that he was," Franco said.