Singleton film breaks records at Sundance. Paramount buys the ''Boyz N the Hood'' filmmaker's rap tale ''Hustle and Flow'' for $9 million, plus another $7 million for his next two pictures

By Gary Susman
Updated January 25, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST

After the screening of crowd-pleaser Hustle & Flow on Saturday night at the Sundance Film Festival, two new indie-film kings were crowned. One was Terrence Howard, the film’s 34-year-old star, who also appears in current Sundance submissions The Salon and Lackawanna Blues. The other was Hustle producer John Singleton, who the next day signed the biggest deal in the history of the festival. Reuters reports that Paramount’s MTV Films unit ponied up $16 million; the distributor not only bought Hustle for $9 million, but it also bought the rights to the Boyz N the Hood filmmaker’s next two indie movies, not yet made, for $3.5 million apiece.

Written and directed by Craig Brewer, Hustle tells the story of a Memphis pimp (Howard) who decides to change his life by trying to make it as a rapper. The film also stars Anthony Anderson and Ludacris, who told MTV News the movie cost just $2 million to make. Studio exec Rob Friedman told Reuters that $16 million was a bargain for a three-picture deal with Singleton, who’s proved his commercial appeal in recent years with Shaft and 2 Fast 2 Furious.

Howard, last seen as one of Ray Charles’ sidemen in Ray, was ecstatic about the film’s reception at Sundance. ”I just wish everybody could feel the way I felt [Saturday] night — it’s like creating the world,” he told USA Today. ”I got a standing ovation. My quote of the day would be, ‘Life is so good!’ It means that everything that I’ve done is worthwhile.”