John Singleton, Boyz N the Hood director, dies aged 51

Oscars’ first African-American best-director nominee led black film-making resurgence

John Singleton: the director during postproduction for his film Four Brothers, in 2005. Photograph: Monica Almeida/NYT

John Singleton: the director during postproduction for his film Four Brothers, in 2005. Photograph: Monica Almeida/NYT


The family of John Singleton, the director, producer and screenwriter behind the 1991 film Boyz N the Hood and several other movies, said they had directed doctors to take him off life support on Monday after he suffered a stroke earlier this month.

“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,” said a statement. “This was an agonizing decision, one that our family made, over a number of days, with the careful counsel of John’s doctors.”

Singleton, who was 51 and a native of South Los Angeles, was nominated for an Oscar for his directing in his debut film, Boyz N the Hood, which centred on three teenagers growing up amid violence in his home city. Singleton was in his early 20s and fresh out of film school when he directed the film. He was the first African-American and the youngest person ever to be nominated for the award.

He went on to direct more than 10 films and TV series, including the recent FIX crime drama Snowfall, about the 1980s crack-cocaine epidemic in Los Angeles. His most prominent films after his debut include Poetic Justice, from 1993, a romantic melodrama starring Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur, and Rosewood, from 1997, about a historical white mob massacre against a town of black residents in Florida.

Singleton also directed episodes of Empire, The People v OJ Simpson: American Crime Story and Billions. In 1992 he directed a music video for Michael Jackson’s song Remember the Time, featuring Eddie Murphy, Magic Johnson and Iman.

His family members started vying for control of his business affairs after he had his stroke, on April 17th, and was hospitalised in an intensive-care unit. The statement from Singleton’s publicist said that he had “quietly struggled” with high blood pressure.

His mother, Shelia Ward, filed court papers in Los Angeles last week asking to be appointed temporary guardian, saying her son was scheduled to sign a lucrative settlement agreement around April 30th and would suffer a financial loss if no one could sign on his behalf. Singleton had not signed any healthcare directive or power of attorney, the papers said.

Ward said that Singleton was in a coma, but several of his children disputed her assessment of his medical state and opposed her controlling the medical and financial decisionmaking. In an email last week his daughter Cleopatra Singleton said family members were optimistic that he would recover.

As news of Singleton’s serious condition emerged last week, actors, producers and directors who had worked with him or been influenced by his work paid tribute. Morris Chestnut, who played one of the teenagers in Boyz N the Hood, tweeted his well wishes and support. “Much love in my heart for this prolific man – John Singleton. Praying and staying positive for the best,” Chestnut wrote.

The Oscar-nominated director Ava DuVernay wrote on Twitter last week that he had helped shape her work. “His films helped form me. His kindness lifted me up,” she tweeted.

Shonda Rhimes, the television producer behind Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, said that Singleton supported her growth as a young woman trying to break into the industry. Rhimes said in an Instagram post on Friday that she received a phone call from Singleton when she was studying at the University of Southern California, his alma mater. Rhimes said that she didn’t know Singleton at the time but that he called to offer encouragement because he had heard she was talented. “He told me to keep writing. I never forgot it,” Rhimes said. “Praying for him and his family now.” – New York Times