John Singleton, the Oscar-nominated director behind Boyz N the Hood and Poetic Justice, has died following a stroke earlier this month. He was 51.
“John passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family and friends,” Singleton’s family said in a statement released Monday afternoon. “We want to thank the amazing doctors at Cedars-Sinai Hospital for their expert care and kindness and we again want thank all of John’s fans, friends and colleagues for all of the love and support they showed him during this difficult time.”
The filmmaker suffered a stroke on April 17 while at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and was hospitalized in intensive care ever since. His family released a statement earlier Monday saying he would be removed from life support.
Singleton made Oscar history when he was nominated for Best Director for his 1991 debut film Boyz N the Hood, becoming the first black director and the youngest director ever to be nominated in the category. (He was also nominated for Best Screenplay.)
He went on to direct films including Poetic Justice, Higher Learning, and the 2000 Shaft reboot, as well as 2003’s 2 Fast 2 Furious. He most recently served as co-creator and executive producer on FX’s Snowfall TV series.
Born in Los Angeles, Singleton was inspired to write Boyz N the Hood as a film student at the University of Southern California, after seeing Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. “[After the movie] I just went to my dorm feeling intimidated but excited, and I was like, ‘How am I going to make it in this business? How am I going to have some type of voice?’” Singleton told EW in 2017. “I rolled down to my neighborhood where I grew up, and it just came to me. I said, ‘I gotta do something for black South Central L.A.’”
Once it hit theaters — just a few months after video was released of police violently beating Rodney King — Boyz N the Hood became a critical and cultural hit, hailed for its powerful, unflinching examination of growing up in South Central Los Angeles. It earned $57.5 million at the box office and helped launch the careers of actors like Angela Bassett, Nia Long, Regina King, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Ice Cube.
Reflecting on the film for a 2017 oral history, Singleton told EW that Boyz N the Hood’s Oscar recognition only made him “work even harder.”
“Sidney Poitier told me something very important when I was getting started,” Singleton remembered. “He said, ‘Just because a film doesn’t do a lot of box office or get a lot of awards when it first comes out doesn’t make that film less worthy of being considered a classic.’ At my age now, I’m more pragmatic about that.”
Singleton is survived by his parents and seven children — Justice, Maasai, Hadar, Cleopatra, Selenesol, Isis, and Seven