Best known as the director of Boyz n the Hood, John Singleton left a monumental mark on Hollywood during his time in the film industry. His most impactful films are recognized for their insight on poverty, racism, and inner-city violence, aiding in opening the eyes of the public to many social issues. Now let’s take a more in-depth look into the life and career of John Singleton and how he was taken away from us far too soon.
He Cast Iconic Rappers For Several Roles
For many of his films, Singleton was known for casting hip-hop musicians and rappers. With his help, artists such as Busta Rhymes, Tupac Shakur, and Ice Cube, got their start in the film industry. On the Queen Latifa Show in 1999, Ice Cube expressed his generosity towards the director for helping him break into the industry.
He said that Singleton brought him in for a screen test to see his acting chops before hiring him for the role of Doughboy for the film Boyz n the Hood. He would later go on to star in Singleton’s Higher Learning, along with numerous other films without Singleton.
He Was Married Twice
John Singleton was married twice during his life. His first wife was Tosha Lewis whom he shared two children with. His first daughter, Justice Maya Singleton was born on October 17, 1992. Their son, Maasai Mohandas Singleton, was born on April 3, 1994. After a divorce from Lewis, Singleton went on to marry Akosua Gyamama Busia on October 12, 1996.
Together, the two shared a daughter named Hadar Singleton, who was born in 1997. Unfortunately, their marriage didn’t last longer than a year, and they were divorced in 1997. Singleton also has another daughter, Cleopatra, born in 1998 with a mystery woman.
He Changed His Major To Study Film
Singleton was born into a family in which his mother Shiela was a former pharmaceutical company sales executive, and his father Danny was a real estate agent, mortgage broker, and financial planner. He attended Blair High School before transferring to Pasadena City College, and later the USC School of the Cinematic Arts.
However, before graduating from USC in 1990, he changed his focus of study from Computer Science to the Film Writing Program. This decision and his success in the program paved the way for him to become a respected Hollywood director.
He Dated Tyra Banks For A Time
In the years between 1993 and 1996, Singleton was dating actress, model, and businesswoman, Tyra Banks. After the two had met each other, Singleton gave Banks her first film role in his movie Higher Learning. Singleton had noticed Banks after she made a guest appearance on the TV series The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
Yet, he wasn’t afraid to throw her right into the thick of his film. On her first day of shooting Higher Learning, she filmed an intimate scene with Omar Epps, an experience she described as “incredibly weird.”
He Was The First African American To Be Nominated For Best Director
Released in 1991, Singleton’s film Boyz n the Hood, earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Director. This made him not only the first African American to be nominated in the category; at the age of 24, he was also the youngest. The film also went on to be nominated for Best Screenplay.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, Boyz n the Hood was also Singleton’s first film that he directed after graduating from USC, putting him on the map as a respectable Hollywood director.
He Was Taken Off Of Life Support
On April 17, 2019, Singleton suffered a stroke and was rushed to a hospital where he was placed in the Intensive Care Unit. Supposedly, he had begun feeling weakness in his legs after returning to the US after a trip to Costa Rica. Then, on April 25, 2019, he was reported to have gone into a coma. Just days later, on April 29, his family announced that they had taken him off life support.
His family’s statement read: “It is with heavy hearts we announce that our beloved son, father, and friend, John Daniel Singleton will be taken off of life support today. This was an agonizing decision, one that our family made, over a number of days, with the careful counsel of John’s doctors.”
He Has A Net Worth Of $50 Million
As of 2019, it is estimated that Singleton’s net worth is around $50 million. The majority of his wealth is assumed to be from the success of the movies that he has directed and produced. His highest grossing film, 2 Fast 2 Furious, earned $127,154,901 alone.
In addition, his other films such as Four Brothers earned $74,494,381, Shaft collected more than $70,334,258, and Boyz n the Hood accumulated more than $57 million at the box office.
He Was Court-Ordered To Make A Short Film
In 1999, Singleton pleaded “no contest” to one count of battery against his current girlfriend, the mother of his daughter Cleopatra. Apparently, there was a disagreement over child visitation rights, which resulted in Singleton choking and shoving his girlfriend, as well as striking her in the torso and face.
The court ordered Singleton to produce a 15 to 30-minute film about domestic violence. At the age of 31, he was also fined $300, sentenced to three years probation, and had to attend violence counseling.
Boyz n the Hood Dominated The Cannes Film Festival
While Singleton and those involved in the making of Boyz n the Hood knew they were onto something, they weren’t sure how it would do at the Cannes Film Festival, especially with subtitles. Yet, they were pleasantly surprised by the response they received when the movie ended.
According to producer Steve Nicolaides, “Lights go down, the movie plays out, the movie’s over, lights go up … I look up and people are hanging off the balcony trying to get John’s attention to say how great it was. The whole Mount Rushmore of Black artists and filmmakers is on their feet … Roger Ebert is crying his eyes out. It was one of those.”
Boyz n the Hood Was Mainly Autobiographical
Singleton was writing the script for his debut film, Boyz n the Hood, when he was 21, using many of his past experiences growing up in Los Angeles as material. In the film, the main character, Tre, is sent to live with his father, while his mother works and goes to school; a similar situation to what Singleton found himself in.
He stated in the DVD commentary that many of the elements in the film were derived from his own growing up. He said: “It was kind of cathartic […] This movie was my way of kind of getting out of the ghetto as a person.”
He Had Issues With Hollywood
In 2014, Singleton spoke out against major Hollywood studios for “refusing to let African-Americans direct black-themed films”. He had become fed up with the industry and decided to make his opinion clear.
During a speech at Loyola Marymount University, he proclaimed: “They ain’t letting the black people tell the stories […] They want black people [to be] what 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 product. 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.”
He Was Angry With Spike Lee
While Singleton regarded Spike Lee as one of his greatest influences, that didn’t necessarily mean the two got along at the beginning. Singleton credits Lee with the idea of hiring African American people both in front of and behind the camera but mostly did so as a way to spite him.
Apparently, Lee didn’t hire Singleton as a production assistant for Do The Right Thing, which angered him. Singleton commented that “When they [didn’t hire me] I was like [expletive] Spike Lee, I’ma do my own [expletive.] I’ma make a West Coast Movie.”
He Was Accused Of Sexual Harassment
In November 2017, Singleton was accused of sexual harassment by Danielle Young, a reporter for The Root. She published an article titled “Don’t Let the Smile Fool You. I’m Cringing on the Inside,” about two separate occasions in which she claims Reverend Jesse Jackson and John Singleton made advances toward her.
Apparently, during an interview, Singleton grabbed her wrist and pulled her in and squeezed her waist during a picture. While the article was published for The Root, nothing ever came out of it.
He Directed A Michael Jackson Music Video
In 1990, Singleton was the director for Michael Jackson’s music video for his song “Remember the Time.” The music video would go on to become one of the most renowned videos of the 90s.
This is so because it was packed full with special effects, was set in ancient Egypt, and featured stars such as Magic Johnson, Iman, and Eddie Murphy. The video had a premiere event, debuting on BET, MTV, and FOX, all at the same time.
He Was Big On Hip-Hop Soundtracks
Considering the subject and themes of many of his movies, it’s no surprise that Singleton heavily relied on hip-hop soundtracks in numerous films. For his debut film Boyz n the Hood, he had songs from artists such as Compton’s Most Wanted, Ice Cube, Monie Love, and more.
In Higher Learning, he used music from OutKast and Rage Against the Machine, among others. Although Singleton wasn’t the first person to combine hip-hop with cinema, he helped pave the way for future directors to rely heavily on their use for soundtracks.
He Was Involved In A Deadly Accident
On August 23, 2007, Singleton was involved in a serious incident in which he accidentally struck 57-year-old Constance Russel with his car. Russel had been jaywalking at the time and Singleton stayed on the scene until the police arrived.
Singleton proved to not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time and was released shortly after being questioned. Constance Russel died as a result of the accident. The case was given to the District Attorney but no charges were filed.
Higher Learning Was Based On Singleton’s Time In College
Much like Boyz in the Hood, Singleton’ Higher Learning was also based on his life. Singleton states in the DVD commentary that it’s inspired by the time he spent at USC. To get extra-specific, he notes that the scene when Remy walks up to Malik and talks about the t-shirt he’s wearing actually happened.
While the movie is mostly fiction, many of the scenes were inspired by real-life scenarios that Singleton experienced. This helped make the film all the more impactful.
He Was Working On A Project Before He Died
Before his untimely death, Singleton was a co-creator of the crime drama television series Snowfall. The show is set in Los Angeles in 1983 and focuses on the crack epidemic that spread across the city.
The project was originally supposed to air on Showtime in 2014 but was picked up by FX in September 2016. The show ran for two seasons and was renewed for a third season on September 19, 2018. The show has mixed reviews but has done well overall.
He Was Nominated For An Emmy
Unsurprisingly, feature-length films aren’t the only thing that Singleton has a talent for making. He’s been the director of numerous episodes for BET’s Rebels, as well as his own show, Snowfall. In addition, he has also contributed to shows such as Billions, 30 for 30, and American Crime Story: The People V O.J. Simpson.
While all of his contributions to television have been impressive, he earned an Emmy nomination for his work on American Crime Story: The People V O.J. Simpson.
He Almost Worked With Leonardo DiCaprio
While casting for Higher Learning, Singleton initially wanted Leonardo DiCaprio to play the role of Remy, with Michael Rappaport as Scott Moss. Everything was ready to go as DiCaprio agreed to play the role and was cast.
However, due to a scheduling conflict with The Quick and the Dead, Dicaprio was unfortunately forced to drop out of the film. This led Singleton to cast Rappaport as Remy after Cole Hauser was brought into the film.