John Singleton, the Emmy and Oscar-nominated director, producer and screenwriter behind Boyz n the Hood, Snowfall and dozens of other films and television shows, has died after suffering a stroke earlier in the month. He was 51.
"We are sad to relay that John Singleton has died. John passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family and friends," his family shared in a statement obtained by ET. "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."
ET confirmed hours earlier that the director's family decided to take him off life support. Singleton was hospitalized and in a coma after he suffered a "major stroke" on April 17. The medical emergency prompted his mother, Shelia Ward, to request temporary conservatorship over her son’s estate. Singleton was working on several projects, including a lucrative settlement agreement, before the stroke.
A native of Los Angeles, California, Singleton graduated from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts in 1990 and made his feature debut the following year with Boyz n the Hood. Singleton wrote and directed the coming-of-age film, starring Morris Chestnut, Cuba Gooding Jr., Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne, Regina King, Nia Long and Ice Cube.
The teen drama depicted a life-changing summer in South Los Angeles in the early 1980s, as told through the gaze of Tre Styles (played by Gooding Jr.), whose world is turned upside down by the murder of his best friend, Ricky Baker (played by Morris), a college football prospect killed in a drive-by shooting. The filmearned Singleton Oscar nominations for Best Director (he was the first black director to earn the nod) and Best Original Screenplay.
After the success of Boyz n the Hood, Singleton directed Michael Jackson’s "Remember the Time" music video, featuring Iman and Eddie Murphy. He added another classic film to his resume with Poetic Justice starring Tupac Shakur and Janet Jackson, followed by Higher Learning, which reteamed Singleton with Cube and Fishburne. The film, which is about a racially divided college campus, also starred Tyra Banks, Jennifer Connelly, Michael Rapaport and Omar Epps.
In 1997, Singleton released Rosewood, starring Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle and Elise Neal. The film chronicles the true story of a black town in Florida that was destroyed by a white lynch mob during a 1923 massacre in which dozens on black town members were murdered. Singleton’s next film, Shaft, starring Samuel L. Jackson, was a remake of the 1971 film of the same name, followed by Baby Boy, starring Tyrese Gibson, Taraji P. Henson, Snoop Dogg and Rhames.
Early into his more than 25-year career, Singleton built a reputation for authentically depicting African American life through films, typically set in predominately black and Latino neighborhoods in Los Angeles, that had been largely disregarded by Hollywood’s movie mainstream. In a 2014 appearance at Loyola Marymount University, Singleton criticized major studios for refusing to allow black directors to make films with black themes.
"They ain't letting the black people tell the stories," Singleton told a room full of students at the time. He noted that film executives are willing to develop stories from black creators, but don’t want to hire them.
"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," Singleton explained before adding, "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."
The outspoken director’s credits also include 2 Fast 2 Furious, Four Brothers, Billions, American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson and Empire.
Hislatest brainchild, Snowfall, an FX crime drama centered around the crack epidemic in 1980’s Los Angeles, which Singleton co-created, wrote, directed and executive produced, was renewed for season three last year.
The father of seven worked with some of Hollywood's most talented actors, but he kept his personal life mostly out of the spotlight. Singleton dated Banks in the early '90s and was briefly married to Ghanian actress Akosua Gyamama Busia from 1996 until 1997. The former couple welcomed a daughter, now 22-year-old Hadar, two months before they divorced.
Singleton also had a daughter, Justice, and son, Massai, with former partner Tosha Lewis, in addition to daughters Cleopatra and Isis with actress-model Mitzi Andrews.