John Singleton
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John Daniel Singleton (January 6, 1968 April 28, 2019) was an American director, screenwriter, and producer. He made his feature film debut writing and directing '' Boyz n the Hood'' (1991), for which he was nominated for the
Academy Award for Best Director The Academy Award for Best Director (officially known as the Academy Award of Merit for Directing) is an award presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). It is given in honor of a film director who has exhibit ...
, becoming, at age 24, the first
African American African Americans (also referred to as Black Americans and Afro-Americans) are an Race and ethnicity in the United States, ethnic group consisting of Americans with partial or total ancestry from sub-Saharan Africa. The term "African American ...
and youngest person to have ever been nominated for that award. Since then, Singleton has written and directed other films such as the romantic drama '' Poetic Justice'' (1993), the socially conscious drama ''
Higher Learning ''Higher Learning'' is a 1995 American drama, drama film written and directed by John Singleton and starring an ensemble cast. The film follows the changing lives of three incoming freshmen at the fictional Columbus University: Malik Williams (Om ...
'' (1995), the historical drama ''
Rosewood Rosewood refers to any of a number of richly hued timbers, often brownish with darker veining, but found in many different hues. True rosewoods All genuine rosewoods belong to the genus ''Dalbergia''. The pre-eminent rosewood appreciated in ...
'' (1997), the crime film '' Shaft'' (2000), the coming-of-age drama '' Baby Boy'' (2001) and the action films '' 2 Fast 2 Furious'' (2003), and '' Four Brothers'' (2005). In television, he the television crime drama ''
Snowfall Snow comprises individual ice crystals that grow while suspended in the atmosphere—usually within clouds—and then fall, accumulating on the ground where they undergo further changes. It consists of frozen crystalline water throughout ...
'' and directed episodes of shows such as ''
Empire An empire is a "political unit" made up of several territories and peoples, "usually created by conquest, and divided between a dominant center and subordinate peripheries". The center of the empire (sometimes referred to as the metropole) ex ...
'', '' Rebel'' and the fifth episode of '' The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story''. He was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special for the latter. One of the most successful and groundbreaking directors in African-American cinema, Singleton's films represented the African-American experience in urban populations, focusing on themes such as black masculinity, trauma, racism and ethnicity. Singleton was also known for casting rappers/musicians in prominent roles such as Ice Cube,
Tupac Shakur Tupac Amaru Shakur ( ; born Lesane Parish Crooks, June 16, 1971 – September 13, 1996), also known as 2Pac and Makaveli, was an American rapper. He is widely considered one of the most influential rappers of all time. Shakur is among the Li ...
,
Janet Jackson Janet Damita Jo Jackson (born May 16, 1966) is an American singer, songwriter, actress, and dancer. She is noted for her innovative, socially conscious and sexually provocative records, as well as elaborate stage shows. Her sound and choreog ...
, Q-Tip,
Busta Rhymes Trevor George Smith Jr. (born May 20, 1972), known professionally as Busta Rhymes, is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer and actor. Chuck D of Public Enemy (band), Public Enemy gave him the moniker Busta Rhymes, after Nation ...
, Tyrese Gibson,
Snoop Dogg Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. (born October 20, 1971), known professionally as Snoop Dogg (previously Snoop Doggy Dogg and briefly Snoop Lion), is an American rapper. His fame dates back to 1992 when he featured on Dr. Dre's debut solo single, " ...
, Ludacris and André 3000.


Early life

John Singleton was born on January 6, 1968 in Los Angeles, the son of Shelia Ward-Johnson (later Morgan), a pharmaceutical company sales executive, and Danny Singleton, a real estate agent, mortgage broker, and financial planner. In a 1993 DIRT magazine interview with Veronica Chambers, Singleton says of his childhood, "When I was growing up, comic books, video games and movies were my buffer against all the drugs, the partying and shit ..I never grew up with a whole lot of white people. I grew up in a black neighborhood." He attended Eisenhower High School, Blair High School,
Pasadena City College Pasadena City College (PCC) is a Public college, public community college in Pasadena, California. History Pasadena, California, Pasadena City College was founded in 1924 as Pasadena Junior College. From 1928 to 1953, it operated as a four- ...
and the
USC School of Cinematic Arts The University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) houses seven academic divisions: Film & Television Production; Cinema & Media Studies; John C. Hench Division of Animation + Digital Arts; John Wells Division of Writing for Sc ...
. Singleton was a Spring 1987 initiate into the Beta Omega Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi and graduated from USC in 1990. Singleton considered pursuing
computer science Computer science is the study of computation, automation, and information. Computer science spans theoretical disciplines (such as algorithms, theory of computation, information theory, and automation) to Applied science, practical discipli ...
, but enrolled in USC's Filmic Writing program under Margaret Mehring. The program was designed to take students directly into the Hollywood system as proficient writer/directors.


Career


1990s: Early career and breakthrough

In 1991, Singleton made his film debut with '' Boyz n the Hood''., a coming-of-age crime drama about three childhood friends growing up in the crime-ridden neighbourhood of South Central LA. Starring Cuba Gooding, Jr., Ice Cube, Nia Long, Morris Chestnut,
Angela Bassett Angela Evelyn Bassett (born August 16, 1958) is an American actress. She had her breakthrough with her portrayal of singer Tina Turner in the biopic '' What's Love Got to Do with It'' (1993), which garnered her a nomination for the Academy Awar ...
, Regina King, and Laurence Fishburne, the film was both a critical and commercial success. It debuted at the
Cannes Film Festival The Cannes Festival (; french: link=no, Festival de Cannes), until 2003 called the International Film Festival (') and known in English as the Cannes Film Festival, is an annual film festival A film festival is an organized, extended prese ...
. For his efforts, Singleton received Academy Award nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Director. At age 24, he became the youngest person ever nominated for Best Director and the first African-American to be nominated for the award. In 2002, the United States
Library of Congress The Library of Congress (LOC) is the research library A library is a collection of materials, books or media that are accessible for use and not just for display purposes. A library provides physical (hard copies) or digital access (so ...
deemed the film "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the
National Film Registry The National Film Registry (NFR) is the United States National Film Preservation Board's (NFPB) collection of films selected for preservation (library and archival science), preservation, each selected for its historical, cultural and aesthetic ...
. In 1992, following the success of ''Boyz n the Hood'', Singleton went on to direct VFX-driven " Remember the Time" music video for
Michael Jackson Michael Joseph Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009) was an American singer, songwriter, dancer, and philanthropist. Dubbed the "Honorific nicknames in popular music, King of Pop", he is regarded as Cultural impact of Michael Jackson, ...
, which featured
Eddie Murphy Edward Regan Murphy (born April 3, 1961) is an American actor, comedian, writer, producer, and singer. He rose to fame on the sketch comedy show ''Saturday Night Live'', for which he was a regular cast member from 1980 to 1984. Murphy has als ...
, Iman, and Magic Johnson. The song and the music video were well-received and peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the Billboard Hot R&B Singles as well as the Mainstream Top 40 chart. It is certified 3× Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Internationally, the song was a Top 10 hit in nine countries, peaking at No.1 in New Zealand, at No.2 in Spain and No.3 in the United Kingdom. In 1993, Singleton wrote and directed his second film, '' Poetic Justice'', a romantic drama about a young African-American woman named Justice (played by
Janet Jackson Janet Damita Jo Jackson (born May 16, 1966) is an American singer, songwriter, actress, and dancer. She is noted for her innovative, socially conscious and sexually provocative records, as well as elaborate stage shows. Her sound and choreog ...
, in her film debut) who writes poetry to deal with the loss of her boyfriend to gun violence but soon encounters a postal worker (played by
Tupac Shakur Tupac Amaru Shakur ( ; born Lesane Parish Crooks, June 16, 1971 – September 13, 1996), also known as 2Pac and Makaveli, was an American rapper. He is widely considered one of the most influential rappers of all time. Shakur is among the Li ...
), who helps her overcome depression. The film received mixed reviews from critics, but earned Jackson Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Original Song for "Again", which reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The film has developed a cult following, especially for the chemistry between Jackson and Shakur and is now considered as one of Singleton's most enduring films. In 1995, Singleton wrote and directed ''
Higher Learning ''Higher Learning'' is a 1995 American drama, drama film written and directed by John Singleton and starring an ensemble cast. The film follows the changing lives of three incoming freshmen at the fictional Columbus University: Malik Williams (Om ...
'', a socially conscious drama about the intense racial and social tension in a university campus. Like ''Poetic Justice'', the film received mixed reviews. Of his work with some of the 1990s' most visible rappers, Singleton states,
"I come from the same place as rappers. It's cool because it's just another form of communication. I have the same sensibilities as rappers. I'm not bourgeois and everything, thinking I'm better than folks. I see myself as the first filmmaker from the hip-hop generation. I've grown up with hip-hop music. The films I make have a hip-hop aesthetic. It may not have rap in it, but there's a whole culture and politics that go with the music. It's young, Black culture-that's what I deal with in my films."
In 1997, following the mixed reception of ''Poetic Justice'' and ''Higher Learning'', Singleton's fourth film, ''
Rosewood Rosewood refers to any of a number of richly hued timbers, often brownish with darker veining, but found in many different hues. True rosewoods All genuine rosewoods belong to the genus ''Dalbergia''. The pre-eminent rosewood appreciated in ...
'', a historical drama based on racial violence during the 1923 Rosewood massacre in Florida, received generally positive reviews and was entered into the 47th Berlin International Film Festival, where it was nominated for the Golden Bear.


2000s: Continued success

In 2000, Singelton co-wrote, co-produced and directed '' Shaft'', a sequel-remake of the original 1971 film of the same name starring Richard Roundtree in the title role. Starring Samuel L. Jackson as Shaft's relative, John Shaft Jr., the film received generally positive reviews and was a box office success, grossing over $107 million worldwide. successful critically and commercially. In 2001, ten years after the release of ''Boyz n the Hood'', Singleton wrote, produced, and directed '' Baby Boy'', a coming-of-age comedy-drama about Jody Summers (played by Tyrese Gibson), a 20-year-old man who fathers two children by two different women- Yvette (played by Taraji P. Henson) and Peanut (played by Tamara LaSeon Bass) but still lives with his own mother (played by Adrienne-Joi Johnson) while he lives and learns in his everyday life in the hood of Los Angeles. The film received predominantly positive reviews, many of whom consider it to be a return to form for Singleton and one of his best films. Singleton's next film was '' 2 Fast 2 Furious'' (2003), the sequel to '' The Fast and the Furious'' (2001) and the second installment in the Fast and Furious series. The film was a box office success, grossing over $236 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing film in the series at the time, as well as the highest-grossing film of Singleton's career. In 2005, Singleton teamed with writer-director Craig Brewer to finance and produce the
independent film An independent film, independent movie, indie film, or indie movie is a feature film or short film that is film production, produced outside the major film studio system, in addition to being produced and distributed by independent entertainment c ...
'' Hustle and Flow'', once it was clear that most other major backers would not clear it for release. The film stars Terrence Howard as a Memphis hustler and pimp who faces his aspiration to become a rapper. Also starring Anthony Anderson and Taraji P. Henson in supporting roles, the film received positive reviews and earned two
Academy Awards The Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars, are awards for artistic and technical merit for the American and international film industry. The awards are regarded by many as the most prestigious, significant awards in the entertainment ind ...
nominations for Best Actor and Best Original Song, winning the latter. That same year, Singleton directed '' Four Brothers'', a blaxploitation-inspired action film starring
Mark Wahlberg Mark Robert Michael Wahlberg (born June 5, 1971), former stage name Marky Mark, is an American actor, businessman, and former rapper. He has received List of awards and nominations received by Mark Wahlberg, multiple accolades, including a B ...
, Tyrese Gibson, André Benjamin and Garrett Hedlund as four adopted brothers who return to their hometown of
Detroit, Michigan Detroit ( , ; , ) is the List of municipalities in Michigan, largest city in the U.S. state of Michigan. It is also the largest U.S. city on the Canada–United States border, United States–Canada border, and the County seat, seat of gov ...
to avenge the murder of their adoptive mother. The film received mixed reviews from critics but grossed $92 million worldwide. In 2003, Singleton received a star at the
Hollywood Walk of Fame The Hollywood Walk of Fame is a historic landmark which consists of more than 2,700 five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars embedded in the sidewalks along 15 city block, blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street in Hollywood, ...
.


2010s: Unrealised projects

In 2011, Singleton was in talks with Ice Cube, who worked with Singleton on ''Boyz n the Hood'' and ''Higher Learning'', to direct a biopic about Cube's rap group N.W.A. before F. Gary Gray was hired in August 2012. The film was released in 2015 to positive reviews and box office success. Two years later, in 2013, Singleton was attached as the writer-director of a biopic about the life, career and death of rapper
Tupac Shakur Tupac Amaru Shakur ( ; born Lesane Parish Crooks, June 16, 1971 – September 13, 1996), also known as 2Pac and Makaveli, was an American rapper. He is widely considered one of the most influential rappers of all time. Shakur is among the Li ...
. On April 3, 2015, Singleton reported that production was put on hold. Following creative differences with Morgan Creek Productions, Singleton had stepped down as director, and was replaced by Carl Franklin. Singleton also stated he was planning on making a competing film about Tupac. The film was eventually released in 2017 as '' All Eyez on Me'', which was negatively received by critics and audiences and Singleton himself, who intended to make his own biopic about Shakur as well as a biopic about the rap group Three 6 Mafia, who worked with Singleton on ''Hustle & Flow'', prior to his death in 2019.


2017-2019: Transition to television and final years

Following the release of the critically-panned action thriller film '' Abduction'' (2011), Singleton spent the final years of his career focusing on television. After directing episodes of the critically acclaimed TV shows ''Empire'' and ''American Crime Story'', in 2017, he served as an executive producer and director of the crime drama series '' Rebel'' for BET, which focuses on Oakland police officer Rebecca "Rebel" Knight, who after her brother was killed by police, began working as private investigator. That same year, ''
Snowfall Snow comprises individual ice crystals that grow while suspended in the atmosphere—usually within clouds—and then fall, accumulating on the ground where they undergo further changes. It consists of frozen crystalline water throughout ...
'', a crime drama series co-created and executively produced by Singleton for FX, premiered on July 5, 2017. Singleton co-wrote the screenplays for the first two episodes with series creators Eric Amadio and Dave Andron and directed the finales for the first two seasons. The series stars Damson Idris as Franklin Saint, a budding young drug dealer from South Central L.A., and it depicts how the community is affected by the 1980s crack epidemic. This was one of the last projects Singleton worked on before his death in 2019.


Influences and themes


Influences

Singleton cited the original ''Star Wars'' film as one of his strongest influences and the works of filmmaker
Steven Spielberg Steven Allan Spielberg (; born December 18, 1946) is an American director, writer, and producer. A major figure of the New Hollywood era and pioneer of the modern Blockbuster (entertainment), blockbuster, he is the most List of highest-grossi ...
and playwright August Wilson as a source of inspiration. Singleton was influenced by his friend and fellow filmmaker
Spike Lee Shelton Jackson "Spike" Lee (born March 20, 1957) is an American film director, producer, screenwriter, and actor. His production company, 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, has produced more than 35 films since 1983. He made his directorial debut ...
. The two met in 1986, at a screening of Lee's film ''
She's Gotta Have It ''She's Gotta Have It'' is a 1986 American Black and white, black-and-white comedy-drama film written, produced, edited and directed by Spike Lee. Filmed on a small budget and Lee's List of directorial debuts, first feature-length film to be r ...
'', two weeks before Singleton started attending USC.


Themes

Singleton's films have received praise for their authentic representation of the black experience in American whilst also incorparting a hip-hop energy and style. His films have often examined black masculinity, violence, racism and ethnicity, racial prejudice, trauma, and other polictical themes.


Legacy

As the first African-American nominated for the
Academy Award for Best Director The Academy Award for Best Director (officially known as the Academy Award of Merit for Directing) is an award presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). It is given in honor of a film director who has exhibit ...
in 1992 for ''Boyz n the Hood'', Singleton has paved the way for several African-American filmmakers including Jordan Peele, Ryan Coogler, Ava DuVernay, Steve McQueen and Barry Jenkins, who have also gained
Academy Awards The Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars, are awards for artistic and technical merit for the American and international film industry. The awards are regarded by many as the most prestigious, significant awards in the entertainment ind ...
for their work.


Personal life

Singleton was the father of seven children. With his wife, Tosha Lewis, he had his first daughter Justice Maya Singleton (born 1992), named after the lead character of the same name (played by Janet Jackson) in ''Poetic Justice'' and the poet
Maya Angelou Maya Angelou ( ; born Marguerite Annie Johnson; April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014) was an American memoirist, popular poet, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and ...
respectively. Singleton has a son named Maasai Singleton (born April 3, 1996) and a daughter named Cleopatra "Cleo" Singleton (born September 6, 1998) with ex-girlfriend Vestria Barlow. On October 12, 1996, Singleton married Ghanaian actress Akosua Gyamama Busia, the daughter of Ghana's second Prime Minister Kofi Abrefa Busia. The couple had a daughter named Hadar Busia-Singleton (born April 3, 1997), who appeared in '' Tears of the Sun'' (2003) and other films. Singleton and Busia divorced in June 1997. He had one daughter in 2010 with Mitzi Andrews, an actress/model and teacher based in Toronto, Canada. He also had a son, Seven, with Rayvon Jones. On August 23, 2007, Singleton was involved in an automobile accident in which he struck a jaywalking pedestrian, Constance Russell, 57, of Los Angeles. Staying on the scene until the police arrived, Singleton was not under the influence of alcohol or other substances, and was released after being questioned. Russell died later in the hospital. The case was turned over to the District Attorney, but no charges were ever filed. On March 19, 2014, Singleton criticized popular studios for "refusing to let African-Americans direct black-themed films". Singleton told an audience of students at Loyola Marymount University "They ain't letting the black people tell the stories." He also added, "They want black people o bewhat they want them to be. And nobody is man enough to go and say that. 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 products. They're not moving the bar forward creatively. ...When you try to make it homogenized, when you try to make it appeal to everybody, then you don't have anything that's special." In November 2017, Danielle Young, a journalist for '' The Root'' who had interviewed Singleton in June 2017, said he sexually harassed her after the interview and while taking a photo she posted on Instagram.


Death

On April 17, 2019, Singleton suffered a
stroke A stroke is a disease, medical condition in which poor cerebral circulation, blood flow to the brain causes cell death. There are two main types of stroke: brain ischemia, ischemic, due to lack of blood flow, and intracranial hemorrhage, hemorr ...
and was placed under intensive care. He reportedly began to experience weakness in his legs after returning to the United States from a trip to
Costa Rica Costa Rica (, ; ; literally "Rich Coast"), officially the Republic of Costa Rica ( es, República de Costa Rica), is a country in the Central American region of North America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the no ...
. On April 25, it was reported that he was in a coma, but his daughter stated otherwise. On April 28, Singleton was removed from life support and he died at the age of 51 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Dozens of actors and musicians paid tribute to him. American rapper and actor Ice Cube, who worked with Singleton in ''Boyz n the Hood'' and ''Higher Learning'', said: "There are no words to express how sad I am to lose my brother, friend & mentor. He loved obring the black experience to the world." Cuba Gooding Jr., who was given his first major role by Singleton in ''Boyz n the Hood'', paid tribute to his late friend by singing "One Day More" from '' Les Misérables'', a favorite song of Singleton. A private funeral was held on May 6, 2019, in
Los Angeles Los Angeles ( ; es, Los Ángeles, link=no , ), often referred to by its initials L.A., is the largest city in the state of California California is a U.S. state, state in the Western United States, located along the West Coast of ...
, and Singleton was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills. The official cause of death was acute ischemic stroke, intracerebral hemorrhage, and
hypertension Hypertension (HTN or HT), also known as high blood pressure (HBP), is a Chronic condition, long-term Disease, medical condition in which the blood pressure in the artery, arteries is persistently elevated. High blood pressure usually does not ...
.


Filmography


Film

Acting roles Other credits


Television

Acting roles Other credits


Music video

* '' Remember the Time'' for
Michael Jackson Michael Joseph Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009) was an American singer, songwriter, dancer, and philanthropist. Dubbed the "Honorific nicknames in popular music, King of Pop", he is regarded as Cultural impact of Michael Jackson, ...
(1992)


See also

* List of youngest Academy Award nominees


References


Further reading

* *Carr, Joi (March 2018
''Boyz n the hood: shifting Hollywood terrain''.
Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.
''The Real Boyz N The Hood - John D. Singleton (Tre), Michael Winters (Doughboy) and Roman J. Artiste (Ricky)''.


External links


Films of John Singleton
a critical fan site endorsed by Singleton. * * {{DEFAULTSORT:Singleton, John 1968 births 2019 deaths 20th-century American male writers 20th-century American screenwriters 21st-century American male writers 21st-century American screenwriters Action film directors African-American film directors African-American film producers African-American male actors African-American male writers African-American screenwriters African-American television producers American film producers American male film actors American male screenwriters American male television actors American male television writers American music video directors Blair High School (Pasadena, California) alumni Burials at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills) Film directors from Los Angeles Film producers from California Male actors from California Male actors from Los Angeles Pasadena City College alumni People from Los Angeles People from South Los Angeles Screenwriters from California Television producers from California USC School of Cinematic Arts alumni Writers from Los Angeles Fellows of the American Physical Society