25 Facts You Should Know About John Singleton

Earlier today, award-winning director and screenwriter John Singleton was pronounced dead. He was taken off of life support after having a stroke. He was 51.

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Here are some facts you might not know about him:

1. John was born in Los Angeles, California on January 6, 1968. He grew up in the Darby-Dixon area of Inglewood in a neighborhood called The Bottoms.

2. Back then, he lived a block away from a drive-in movie theater, so he would watch the movies from his house without the sound.

3. Lacking tools like cameras or camcorders to tell stories, John would draw animated stories in a notepad with his favorite superheroes.

4. After watching a 20/20 special on the making of Close Encounters of the Third Kind with Steven Spielberg, John realized he wanted to be a director.

5. John cited August Wilson as his inspiration for becoming a screenwriter, after seeing his Tony Award-winning play, Fences.

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6. He attended USC School of Cinematic Arts. John initially wanted to major in computer science, but decided to pursue film writing instead.

7. Three weeks before he went to college, John met Spike Lee during a screening of his film She’s Gotta Have It. Already filled with confidence in his abilities, John told Spike Lee, “Watch out for me, I’m coming!”

8. While attending the school, John pledged Kappa Alpha Psi, one of five historically black fraternities included in the Divine Nine (made up of five black fraternities and four black sororities).

9. In 1991, John made his directorial debut with Boyz N The Hood, which he also wrote. The film birthed the acting debut of Ice Cube and Morris Chestnut.

10. Boyz N The Hood was based off of John’s life growing up in L.A., events that happened to him, and events that happened to people he knew.

11. He wrote the premise for the film as answer to a USC film school application question, “Describe three ideas for a film.”

12. The original title for Boyz N The Hood was Summer of ’84. Russell Simmons was one of the initial people who read his script, looking to get it produced.

13. John specifically wrote the role of Doughboy for Ice Cube, who John met while interning at The Arsenio Hall Show.

14. In 1992, John was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. He was 24 years old at the time and still remains the youngest in history to be nominated for those awards.

15. John also made history by becoming the first African-American to ever be nominated for those Academy Awards.

16. Boyz N The Hood was later selected to be preserved in the National Film Registry.

17. 1992 was also a big year for John because it marked the debut of his iconic 9-minute music video “Remember the Time,” which he directed for Michael Jackson. Due to the length of the music video, it’s officially categorized as a short film.

18. In 1993, he released his second film, Poetic Justice, starring Janet Jackson, Tupac Shakur, Regina King, and Joe Torry.

19. John was inspired to write the film after noticing a shortage of black female leads in film. He wanted to give a voice to young African-American women.

20. Janet Jackson’s iconic box-braids were inspired by women he’d seen in Harlem, New York, and a dancer named Josie Harris, who sported the braids in his “Remember the Time” music video.

21. Actors like Lisa Bonet, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Monica Calhoun all auditioned for the role of Justice, but deep down John knew the role was meant for Janet Jackson.

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22. John began dating Tyra Banks back in 1993. She starred in his third film, Higher Learning, which debuted in 1995.

23. He met his then wife, Akosua Busia (Nettie in The Color Purple) while filming his fourth film Rosewood. The two divorced a year later in 1997. John and Akousua share a daughter together. John also has four other children, by three different women.

24. John went on to direct critically acclaimed films like Shaft, Baby Boy, Black Snake Moan, and 2 Fast 2 Furious.

25. Finally, some of his favorite storytellers are Orson Welles, Francois Truffaut, Akira Kurosawa, Gordon Parks, John Cassavetes, Martin Scorsese, and Francis Ford Coppola.

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