One of legendary filmmaker and writer John Singleton’s most prolific works is his 1991 film Boyz N The Hood, which put several notable actors and fellow filmmakers on the entertainment map. Singleton is proof that Black history continues when we put each other in position. Read more about how this legend’s debut feature film created the next generation of legends.
“One out of every 21 Black American males will be murdered in their lifetime. Most will die at the hands of another Black male.”
In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s and at the helm of the crack epidemic, this calamitous statistic served as the catalyst for an emotional and eye-opening account into the late Singleton’s life growing up in the South Central neighborhood of Los Angeles. Over 32 years ago, audiences across the states gathered to view Boyz N the Hood, which was the beginning of Singleton’s inspiring career and the starting point for several actors in the film, including one of the film’s stars Ice Cube from the rap group N.W.A.
Singleton was only 23 years old when he made his directorial debut. The late, great filmmaker turned down several offers to sell his script without his involvement as the director. Still, Singleton stood firm in his intuition to direct the film that documented a largely autobiographical account of his upbringing in South Central. Columbia Pictures expressed interest in purchasing the film, offering him $100k to let a more experienced director take over the project and his response was, “We’ll have to end this meeting right now, because I’m doing this movie. This is the movie I was born to make.”
“We’ll have to end this meeting right now, because I’m doing this movie. This is the movie I was born to make.”
Without his perseverance and wits, Singleton might not have been in position to create a groundbreaking film which shook the country and shocked the world with its raw depictions of violence and poverty. He may not have been able to uplift a gifted group of actors, who were virtually unknown at the time.
The film stars Cuba Gooding Jr., Ice Cube, Morris Chestnut, Laurence Fishburne, Angela Bassett, and Regina King. All legendary talents who have gone on to appear in larger-than-life films and television series. Many of the movie’s leads were intentionally chosen by Sinleton and his casting director Jaki Brown, because they were hidden gems at the time.
In Friendly Fire, Singleton said that he told casting director Jaki Brown that he “didn’t want to see anybody that you’ve seen in any other movie before.” More on this later, but know that Singleton worked tirelessly seeking out lesser known talents like Fishburne and Cube based on his personal relationships and belief in their talents.
Laurence Fishburne had had several small roles in films like The Color Purple and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, but his big break was playing a supporting character for nine episodes of “Pee Wee’s Playhouse,” where a 19-year-old Singleton worked as a security guard. He then told Fishburne then that he would someday write a movie and have him in it, and that he did.
As for Ice Cube, Singleton knew that he wanted hm to play the role of Doughboy, but he had to work for two years to convince the rapper to take the job.
“‘Ok, it’s time for us rappers to make movies now’ … but I hadn’t read the script or memorized the lines, so I kept f*cking up. It was just terrible.”
Despite a terrible audition, Singleton was in Ice Cube’s corner because he strongly believed in the rapper’s ability and Singleton’s personal vision for the film. Singleton asked him to read the script and to come back the next day, but warned him that he had to be good or they would find someone else. Cube realized that the movie was really “about how we grew up,” and was able to successfully tap into the character.
Boyz N the Hood film is considered a cult classic, which changed the narrative for creating, not just “Black movies,” but cinema at large. The film is recognized by the Library of Congress and former President Clinton as an important film for future generations and representative of the Black experience.
Happy Black History Month to the true visionaries, who preserve the culture through classic films and television series. Most importantly, the legends who work tirelessly to uplift the next generation of legends. Thank you, John Singleton!
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