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November 15, 2019

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Remembering Oscar-nominated director John Singleton

Oscar-nominated film director John Singleton died Monday at age 51. He was taken off life support after suffering a stroke earlier in the month. Singleton's remarkable career launched with the critically acclaimed 1991 film “Boyz N the Hood,” about three teens growing up amid Los Angeles violence and gang culture. At the time, it was a world seldom portrayed by Hollywood. Jeffrey Brown reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Finally tonight, we remember the Oscar-nominated film director and writer John Singleton, who died today after a stroke.

    Jeffrey Brown is back with Singleton's story and how his work inspired others who would follow him.

    Again, it's part of our Canvas series on arts and culture.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    John Singleton's 1991 film "Boyz n the Hood," set in his own hometown of South Central Los Angeles, told the story of three teens struggling to grow up amid violence and gang culture, a world rarely portrayed by Hollywood.

    He was just 24 years old and became both the youngest person and first African-American to be nominated for an Academy Award for best director. He was also nominated for best screenplay. The movie served as a launching pad as well for actors with big careers to come, including Laurence Fishburne, Cuba Gooding Jr., Regina King, and Ice Cube.

    Speaking at the Austin Film Festival in 2016, Singleton told of his determination to direct the film when meeting with executives.

    The interview aired on the PBS series "On Story."

  • John Singleton:

    They were testing me. They were saying, hey, what if we tell you we want to buy your script and we get somebody else to direct it?

    And I said, well, we have to end this meeting right now. They're like, whoa. And I said, well, because I'm going to direct this movie.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    He would go on to direct other films with themes of racial and social justice at their center, including "Poetic Justice" with Janet Jackson, "Baby Boy" and "Rosewood," as well as a sequel in the "Fast and Furious" movie franchise.

    And he directed or produced many episodes of highly regarded television series, including "American Crime Story," "Empire" and "Snowfall."

    Leading filmmakers and actors spoke publicly of his influence and support, among them, Ava DuVernay, director of "Selma," who wrote on Twitter: "His kindness lifted me up. I remember him coming to the premiere of my indie years ago, showing love, support for a fellow black director from L.A."

    Producer Shonda Rhimes, creator of "Grey's Anatomy," "Scandal" and other series, wrote on Instagram that Singleton reached out to her when she was struggling in film school. "He was kindly calling to offer me some words of encouragement," she wrote. "He told me to keep writing. I never forgot it."

    In the 2016 interview, Singleton encouraged young filmmakers to follow their own vision.

  • John Singleton:

    It's all about having that original concept and genuine concept of where you're from. Your perspective and your POV, it may not be for everybody, but it's your perspective, and it's valid.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    John Singleton, who struggled with high blood pressure, suffered a stroke on April 17. He died in Los Angeles this afternoon after life support was withdrawn. He was 51 years old.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we honor his memory.

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