John Singleton Has Passed Away At The Age Of 51
UPDATE: Moments ago (April 29), the family of John Singleton confirmed that the 51-year-old film and television producer, director, and screenwriter has died. The report comes hours after family members released a statement to TMZ announcing that he would be removed from life support today.
A Singleton family rep has since told TMZ that John passed “peacefully, surrounded by his family and friends.”
ORIGINAL STORY: The family of John Singleton has announced that they will remove the acclaimed director from life support later today (April 29). The 51-year-old Los Angeles, California native suffered a stroke earlier this month (April 17). TMZ, who has been in close contact with the family, reported the family’s statement moments ago. The director of films including Boyz N The Hood, Poetic Justice, Higher Learning, 2 Fast 2 Furious, and Four Brothers reportedly checked himself into a hospital upon returning from a family vacation in Costa Rica. Late last week, Singleton remained in treatment at L.A.’s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where his condition has worsened. In the intensive care unit, John Singleton reported as medically sedated on Friday (April 26).
Singleton’s film career began with immediate accolades. He became the youngest director, and the first Black filmmaker to be Oscar-nominated for “Best Director” at the 1992 Academy Awards. Released one year after the director graduated from the University Of Southern California’s School Of Cinematic Arts, 1991’s Boyz N The Hood provided a gripping and authentic look at life in South Central, California told through the coming-of-age story of “Tre Styles.” The character was played by Cuba Gooding, Jr., who would take home an Oscar trophy several years later for his work on Jerry Maguire. In looking at “Tre’s” growth, the film dramatically portrayed the perils of life in that environment, from gang violence to teen pregnancy to police brutality and gentrification. In between the complicated dangers, the gripping film also showcased active fatherhood, love, and true friendship. Singleton’s work earned him two significant Oscar nominations, “Best Original Screenplay” and “Best Director.” The wins at the 1992 ceremony would ultimately go to Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise) and Jonathan Demme (Silence Of The Lambs), respectively. However, Boyz N The Hood‘s legacy has endured. It was added to the Library Of Congress’ Film Registry in 2002.
Like Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s career, John Singleton’s films often proved to be launchpads to great actors. Regina King, Taraji P. Henson, Morris Chestnut, and Michael Rapaport made early and instrumental appearances in Singleton films.
Singleton also created critical pathways for Rap and R&B talent in Hollywood. Boyz N The Hood showcased Ice Cube’s acting skills in a period where O’Shea Jackson had left N.W.A. and pivoted into a solo career. Last year, Singleton revealed that the film planned to cast the whole group during its pre-production stages. John worked closely with Tupac Shakur in Poetic Justice, and initially planned for him to star in Higher Learning before several roles were recast. He created a leading Poetic Justice role for music superstar and onetime TV actress Janet Jackson. Tyrese was tapped for the lead in 2001’s Baby Boy. Other artists in Singleton films included Snoop Dogg, André 3000, Ludacris, Busta Rhymes, Q-Tip, Method Man, and Yo-Yo.
During his nearly 30-year career, John Singleton advocated for Black filmmakers telling their own stories. The director condemned the lack of authenticity of portrayals by outsiders behind the shots. “[Studio executives say] ‘We’re going to take your stories but, you know what? You’re going to go starve over here, and we’re not going to let you get a job.’ The so-called liberals that are in Hollywood now are not as good as their parents or ancestors. They feel that they’re not racist. They grew up with Hip-Hop, so [they] can’t be racist. ‘I like JAY-Z, but that don’t mean I got to give you a job,'” he said at Marymount University five years ago. Singleton added, “They want Black people to be who they want them to be, as opposed to what they are. The Black films now — so-called Black films now — they’re great. They’re great films. But they’re just product. They’re not moving the bar forward creatively.” In 2000, John directed and co-wrote a remake to 1971’s Gordon Parks film, Shaft. He also acted in 2003’s Baadasssss!, a biopic on the life of filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles.
Singleton, who cited Steven Spielberg as one of his top film-making influences, followed Shaft by directing the sequel in a blockbuster franchise, 2003’s 2 Fast 2 Furious.
In the last decade, John’s work moved to television. Although he was once slated to run point on the Tupac Shakur biopic, All Eyez On Me shifted its personnel while in production. Instead, John created and produced Snowfall, an FX dramatic series that examined the crack cocaine epidemic. Like the opening sequence of Boyz N The Hood, the ongoing series (to begin its third season soon) is set in 1980s Los Angeles. In 2017, the show simultaneously aired on Britain’s BBC. Additionally, Singleton worked on episodes of Empire, American Crime Story, and BET’s Rebel.
#BonusBeat: A comprehensive 2017 Sway In The Morning interview with John Singleton: