What The Hell Happened To John Singleton?
He debuted in 1991 with one of the films that defined an era. His follow ups were not quite on the same level. But they were ambitious and showed that the talent was still there. Then he took to making films targeted at the popcorn crowd that seemed anonymous and lacked the depth and personality of his earlier films. Today, he’s more or less a director-for-hire making films in the Fast And The Furious series and Taylor Lautner movies.
What the hell happened to John Singleton?
Singleton was born on January 6 1968 in South Central (now South) Los Angeles. His early life in this crime ridden area of LA would impact much of his work.
After seeing Star Wars at 10, Singleton began thinking about a career as a filmmaker. Upon graduating from high school in the late 80s he enrolled in the Filmic Writing Program at The University Of Southern California. His teacher was Margaret Mehring who also taught many other writers including Stephen Chbosky who scripted the film adaptation of Rent and wrote and directed The Perks Of Being A Wallflower from his own book. While in school Singleton wrote several scripts (including Boyz N The Hood) and won a few writing awards.
Upon graduating in 1990, Singleton was getting offers to buy the Boyz script. One offer came from Columbia Pictures. Singleton agreed but with a condition: he had to direct the film.
Singleton had seen many black films helmed by white directors that were quite simply awful. This was a script based on his own life experience and he wasn’t about to hand it over to someone who had no idea what the nuances of this story where or how to get them to the screen. Impressed by his determination, Columbia agreed.
Boyz N The Hood was released in July of 1991.
At first greeted with fear of violence due to its uncompromising look at life in America’s inner cities, Boyz went on to become a hit with both audiences and critics. It came in on the heels of a “black film renaissance” that had theoretically been brought on by Spike Lee’s breakthrough in the late 80s. It went on to become one of the defining films of that era, one that introduced hi-hop and street culture to mainstream America that wouldn’t normally buy an NWA or Ice-T album. It launched Cuba Gooding Jr‘s career. proved that Ice Cube had screen presence as well as microphone presence and moved Laurence (then Larry) Fishburne from supporting player to more prominent roles (although Fishburne was and remains primarily a character actor).
It also got its writer/director two Oscar nominations: one for best Original Screenplay and one for best Director. This made him the youngest Director ever nominated for an Oscar (he was 20) and the first African-American. He didn’t win either one (this was the year that Silence Of The Lambs swept the Oscars). But the exposure helped get him even more recognition.
As he moved on to his sophomore effort, Singleton joined the ranks of John Landis and Martin Scorsese as filmmakers who directed music videos for the King Of Pop.
He helmed the video for Michael Jackson’s 1992 single “Remember The Time”. I’d wager that most people within 5 years of my age either way remember that video which featured Eddie Murphy. If you need a refresher here it is:
Singleton released his second film Poetic Justice in the summer of 1993.
Posted on February 4, 2014, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Director and tagged auteur, boyz n the hood, Ice Cube, John SIngleton, Laurence FIshburne, omar epps, Tyrese. Bookmark the permalink. 55 Comments.