Born John Daniel Singleton on January 6, 1968 in Los Angeles, California. Singleton grew up in South Central Los Angeles and his work as a film director, producer and screenwriter often depicts these turbulent, often violent roots.
He studied screenwriting at the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts, winning three writing awards from the university, which lead to a contract with Creative Artists Agency during his sophomore year.
In 1991, Columbia Pictures bought his script for Boyz n the Hood and budgeted it at $7 million. The film portrayed life in crime–ridden South Central L.A. and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director in 1991, making Singleton the first African-American and the youngest person ever nominated for the award. The film also garnered a nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
Singleton followed the win with Poetic Justice in 1993 and Higher Learning in 1995. Both films examined modern race relations, and while they enjoyed success at the box office, they were not as highly praised by critics as his debut effort.
Subsequent works include 1997's historical drama Rosewood, 2000's Shaft remake starring Samuel L. Jackson, and 2001's Baby Boy. In 2005, he produced the critically acclaimed indie film Hustle & Flow and directed the box office hit Four Brothers.
Singleton was married to Ghanaian princess and actress Akosua Cyamama Busia from 1996 to 1997; they have a daughter.
On March 19, 2014, Singleton criticized popular studios for “refusing to let African-Americans direct black-themed films”. Singleton told an audience of students at Loyola Marymount University “They ain't letting the black people tell the stories.”
He also added, “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.”
January 6, 1968
April 28, 2019
- Lacking tools like cameras or camcorders to tell stories, John would draw animated stories in a notepad with his favorite superheroes.
- After watching a 20/20 special on the making of Close Encounters of the Third Kind with Steven Spielberg, John realized he wanted to be a director.
- John cited August Wilson as his inspiration for becoming a screenwriter, after seeing his Tony Award-winning play, Fences.
- Three weeks before he went to college, John met Spike Lee during a screening of his film She's Gotta Have It. Already filled with confidence in his abilities, John told Spike Lee, “Watch out for me, I'm coming!”
- While attending the school, John pledged Kappa Alpha Psi, one of five historically black fraternities included in the Divine Nine (made up of five black fraternities and four black sororities).
- The original title for Boyz N The Hood was Summer of ‘84. Russell Simmons was one of the initial people who read his script, looking to get it produced.
- Some of his favorite storytellers are Orson Welles, Francois Truffaut, Akira Kurosawa, Gordon Parks, John Cassavetes, Martin Scorsese, and Francis Ford Coppola.