John Singleton at the 71st Annual Directors Guild of America AwardsMatt Baron/Shutterstock
John Singleton, the groundbreaking film director, screenwriter and producer, died Monday in Los Angeles after suffering a stroke on April 17. He was 51. A family spokesperson said Singleton passed away peacefully at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, surrounded by his family and friends.
“We want to thank the amazing doctors at Cedars-Sinai Hospital for their expert care and kindness and we again want thank all of John’s fans, friends and colleagues for all of the love and support they showed him during this difficult time,” the family said in a statement.
Earlier on Monday, the family had made the decision to remove Singleton from life support at Cedars, where he had been in the ICU unit since suffering the stroke 13 days earlier. Singleton suffered the stroke while at the hospital and had been “under great medical care.”
A two-time Oscar nominee for writing and directing his debut film Boyz N the Hood(1991), Singleton was a trailblazer in black cinema. He was a benchmark in filmmaking and his voice spoke to an audience with black storytelling that had never been seen or heard. He shined a light on black narratives in the ’90s, adding his pioneering voice to the need for inclusive voices in the industry.
Born in L.A. on January 6, 1968, Singleton attended Blair High School and went on to Pasadena City College and then to USC School of Cinematic Arts. At first, he was toying with the idea of pursuing computer science, but then he enrolled in USC’s Film Writing Program — and this was the spark that started a career that would cement him as one of the most influential filmmakers of our time.
It wasn’t long after graduating from USC in 1990 that he released his first feature film, Boyz N the Hood. This would start an extraordinary run at Columbia Pictures, where he won a green light for three films in five years — a feat rarely matched by contemporary directors — all by the age of 26. Also at Columbia, Singleton was heavily backed by studio chief Frank Price, a political conservative who responded strongly to Singleton’s talent and family-oriented social messaging.
The Boyz N the Hood script was spotted by a studio reader, Jeff Stockwell, who went on to become a screenwriter in his own right. The film essentially put Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ice Cube on the map as prolific cinematic actors. The movie also starred such A-listers as Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne as well as Morris Chestnut, Regina King and Nia Long. Written and directed by Singleton, Boyz n the Hoodfollowed three men as they navigated their lives through the obstacles of race, violence, cultural identity and relationships in L.A.’s Crenshaw neighborhood.
It put a spotlight on what many would refer to as “urban” filmmaking when in reality it was just Singleton telling stories that he knew and thought deserved to be told. He was a black filmmaker putting a lens on the black experience with compassion, empathy and a degree of rawness that has never been done before. He broke ground in more ways the one.
Written By: Dino-Ray Ramos