John Singleton, the writer-director of the influential film Boyz n the Hood, was taken off life support on Monday after having a stroke. 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 said in a statement. "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."
Singleton's family had previously announced that he would be taken off of life support after making what they called an "agonizing decision" with the counsel of his doctors.
According to court papers filed by his mother Thursday, Singleton suffered a "major stroke" on April 17 and was in a coma, the news site the Blast reported.
Singleton wrote and directed his feature film debut Boyz n the Hood, released in July 1991 when he was only 23 years old. The film — starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Morris Chestnut, and Ice Cube — chronicled the lives of three teenage friends navigating gang-ridden South Central Los Angeles.
Boyz n the Hood was a box office hit, and praised by critics. In the New York Times, Janet Maslin called it a "terrifically confident first feature" that "places Mr. Singleton on a footing with Spike Lee as a chronicler of the frustration faced by young black men growing up in urban settings."
Singleton was nominated for an Oscar for Best Director for Boyz n the Hood, making him the first black person to be nominated in the category — and the youngest as well. He also received a Best Original Screenplay nomination.
Singleton grew up in Los Angeles and went to the University of Southern California film school. In a 2016 interview with Vice, Singleton said he had conceived of Boyz n the Hood for his USC application, basing it on his own childhood.
Though Singleton never again achieved the height of success of Boyz n the Hood, he had a prolific career as a director, writer, and producer. He went on to direct Poetic Justice (1993), the 2000 remake of Shaft, 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003), and Four Brothers (2005).
He also cocreated the FX drama Snowfall, about the early days of the crack epidemic.
When asked about his biggest achievement in a 2016 interview, Singleton said, "I've been in this business for over 26 years, and I haven't lost my soul."
In their statement, his family called Singleton "a prolific, ground-breaking director who changed the game and opened doors in Hollywood, a world that was just a few miles away, yet worlds away, from the neighborhood in which he grew up."
John loved nothing more than giving opportunities to new talent and his films came to be known for career-making roles with actors who the industry would come to embrace; talents such as Tupac Shakur, Regina King, Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Ice Cube, Tyrese and Taraji P. Henson.
Singleton’s work spanned genres and showcased his curiosity and creativity: the remake of Shaft, was a homage to his mentor, Gordon Parks. He also made historical films such as Rosewood and action films such as 2 Fast 2 Furious. Films like Baby Boy and Four Brothers were prescient in the questions they posed about men and the crisis in American masculinity. As streaming platforms created new opportunities in television, Singleton took his talents to shows such as Billions, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story and Empire. Most recently, he cocreated and executive produced the current FX hit drama series Snowfall, in which he engaged such writing talents as Walter Mosley.
John was such a supernova in his youth that we forget that he was only beginning to fully assert his gifts as a director. Kurosawa was 52 when he directed High Low. Hitchcock was 56 when he directed To Catch a Thief. As much as we will treasure his body of work, we were looking forward to the films John would have made in the years ahead.
In his private life, John is a loving and supporting father, son, brother, and friend who believed in higher education, black culture, old school music and the power of film.
John’s confidence in his place in Hollywood was only matched for his passion for the sea. John kayaked in Marina del Rey every morning. His greatest joy, when not on set, was sailing his boat, J’s Dream, up and down the Pacific Coast. The American writer Willa Cather once said, "There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in the storm." We who have grown up with John, made movies with him, sailed with John and laughed with John, know the universe of calm and creativity he created for so many. Now in the wake of his death, we must navigate the storm without him. It is, for us, heartbreaking.
Like many African Americans, Singleton quietly struggled with hypertension. More than 40% of African American men and women have high blood pressure, which also develops earlier in life and is usually more severe. His family wants to share the message with all to please recognize the symptoms by going to Heart.org.
We are grateful to his fans, friends and colleagues for the outpour of love and prayers during this incredibly difficult time. We want to thank all the doctors at Cedars Sinai for the impeccable care he received.
Singleton is survived by his mother, Sheila Ward, his father, Danny Singleton, and his children, Justice, Maasai, Hadar, Cleopatra, Selenesol, Isis, and Seven.