John Singleton broke out with “Boyz N The Hood,” for which he was nominated for the best director Oscar. He was the first African American filmmaker so nominated.
He built a career out of action films (“Shaft”) and movies about the black experience (“Beloved,” “Rosewood,” “Baby Boy,” “Poetic Justice”) and for a time had to wear the label “The Important Black Director Who ISN’T Named Spike Lee” with as much grace as he could summon.
His family just shut off life support for him as he won’t recover the “massive stroke” he suffered last week.
He made a “Fast and Furious” sequel, backed “Hustle & Flow” and like a lot of filmmakers over 40, struggled to get much traction and get projects made in recent years.
I think we may have chatted about “Rosewood” when it came out.
But the memory that sticks out is being in New York and watching him direct a scene from his 2000 remake of “Shaft” in Times Square. He was positively giddy, dancing around the set. A later account in I believe “Premiere Magazine” had producer Joel Silver suggesting he “dance your ass over behind the camera and get me a take.”
He never did become “The Next Spike Lee.” Tastes ran a little too close to say, Brett Ratner, for that. He did some good work and will be remembered for it, launched important careers and can be forgiven for that run of bad pun African American drama titles that followed “Poetic Justice” (named for Janet Jackson’s poet-character in it, “Justice”).
He had more movies and projects in him, more life to live. And 51 is a ridiculously young age to die. RIP.