Obituary

John Singleton, 'Boyz N the Hood' director left his mark

05 May 2019 - 00:00 By The Guardian and Rolling Stone


John Singleton, who has died aged 51 after a stroke, was the youngest filmmaker, and first African-American, to be nominated for a best director Oscar. He was 22 when he made Boyz N the Hood in 1991, the story of three friends growing up among the drugs, guns and gangs of South Central Los Angeles, and 24 by the time he received the nomination.
The previous record holder had been Orson Welles, who was 26 when he was in the running for Citizen Kane 50 years earlier, and Singleton worried about emulating that director's trajectory.
"My biggest fear was that I was going to be a flash in the pan," he said in 2018. "I was thinking about Orson Welles. I didn't want to be like that: you do something spectacular, your first shot, and then, no matter what you do, you can't follow it up."
This, however, was what happened. Boyz N the Hood may not have been Singleton's most accomplished film - Baby Boy (2001), about a young father and would-be gangster living at home with his mother, was more searching and original - but it was his debut that became the cultural phenomenon. In its urgency and starkness it resembled a bulletin from the frontline of a war most audiences did not know was being fought.
For the first time Boyz N the Hood showed audiences the view from the streets, where children talk casually about the way bloodstains change colour on the pavement over time, and the constant buzz of police helicopters renders homework impossible.
Armed with the sort of creative freedom that follows a hit, straight after Boyz N the Hood Singleton made his worst picture, Poetic Justice (1993). After a handful of less successful outings, in 2003 he scored another hit with 2 Fast 2 Furious, an instalment of the popular action franchise
In 1999 Singleton pleaded no contest when charged with battery for punching and choking the mother of one of his children. He was ordered by the judge to make a short film about domestic violence as part of his punishment.
Singleton's two marriages both ended in divorce. He is survived by seven daughters. 
1968-2019

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