Korine, whom Franco dubs the current “king of teenage rebellion,” restaged the movie’s knife fight as a face-off between two machete-wielding girl gangs who strip for a battle led by Mineo, played by—who else?—Franco. Richardson’s photographs of a glammed-up Franco in high drag make eye-popping reference to Dean’s, Mineo’s, and Ray’s famously ambisexual identities. A short film Franco directed casts an androgynous girl as a troubled boy who goes mental after the death of his mother—an echo of Dean’s childhood. In another, Franco gets tattooed with the name Brad Renfro, a budding actor of the Dean variety who died in 2008 from a heroin overdose.
“Rebel” also brings to light the earliest draft of Ray’s original script, which began with a man on fire and a young girl stripped and whipped by teenage thugs. “I don’t know how he ever thought that would be shown in 1955,” Franco says. But in 2012’s “Rebel,” it will be—sort of. Gordon “interprets” Ray’s scenes in two videos he choreographed with a nude Henry Hopper (son of Dennis), including one that shows him on fire from within. As for Young, he supplied a 1950 Ford Custom Tudor coupe (the model of the car that crashed with Dean’s), dropping it from a crane in an elegiac video.
“I believed in this material and explored it with some of the best artists around,” Franco says. “But I can’t get away from being an actor in the art world. That’s also something I’m interested in reworking.”