The passing of trailblazing filmmaker John Singleton sent shockwaves throughout an industry he helped shape. Singleton — who had suffered a stroke less than two weeks ago and was pulled off from life support Monday at the age of 51 — was a true Hollywood pioneer. With Boyz N the Hood, his 1991 debut, he turned his camera on a community then rarely seen on movie screens: the low-income South Central section of Los Angeles. It also made him both the first black filmmaker nominated for the Best Director Oscar, as well as the youngest.
Boyz N the Hood also established a trend that flowed through Singleton’s career: working with incredible actors, some of whom he either discovered or made stars. His first film featured future Oscar winners Cuba Gooding Jr. and Regina King, Ice Cube (in his screen debut), Nia Long, and Morris Chestnut. That’s to say nothing of Laurence Fishburne and a pre-What’s Love Got to Do With It Angela Bassett.
With subsequent films — such as Poetic Justice, Higher Learning, Rosewood, the 2000 remake of Shaft, Baby Boy, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Four Brothers, and more — Singleton was able to amass an incredible stable of actors: Janet Jackson, Tupac Shakur, Jennifer Connelly, Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Esther Rolle, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeffrey Wright, Christian Bale, Tyrese Gibson, Eva Mendes, André Benjamin, Garrett Hedlund, and Mark Wahlberg.
His alumni were among the many who paid tribute to the late filmmaker on the day he passed on into the infinite.
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Rest In Power, my friend. One of the greatest to ever do it. Thank you GOD for blessing us with this gift better known as John Singleton. Having trouble finding enough words to share just what you mean to me. Will always love you John! Your spirit will forever shine bright💜
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This is where it all started. The Genesis – The Genius – The Genre Maker/Star Maker (Taraji P. Henson, Ice Cube, Tyrese Gibson, Lawrence Fishburne, Regina King,Nia Long, Angela Basset, Cuba Gooding, Jr. – in no particular order as these are all great actors/actresses). John Singleton gave me a chance. When I left the audition for "Boyz N' The Hood" as he shook my hand, he gave me a stronger grip than normal and looked me in the eye. I felt he was basically giving me a signal that I had the job without telling me. From there, there was no comprehension of the massive chain of events that was about to follow. People from all over the world literally tell me how they’re affected by Boyz ‘N The Hood. The magnitude and world-wide impact that his ground-breaking film would have for society cannot be measured. Helping to bring awareness of what it takes to come to maturity as a black male in the 'Hood, or die trying… Helping to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges faced. Dealing with challenges and adversity in life and in general. From that lesson, for anyone who watches Boyz N’ The Hood, we are able to learn a little more about ourselves and each other. Hopefully, we are able to grow, evolve and gain a deeper love and understanding of our humanity. John Singleton, thank you for your vision. Thank you for holding my hand a little stronger. Thank you for connecting with me and thank you for connecting me to history. Thank you for connecting and transcending generations, nationalities, nations, races, communities, societies. Thank you, John Singleton, for connecting us all. #RIP #JohnSingleton
They weren’t alone. Colleagues and admirers, many of whom took inspiration from the way he revolutionized Hollywood, spoke out in his honor.