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John Singleton Biography


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Birth Name: John Singleton
Born: 01/06/1968
Birth Place: Los Angeles, California, USA


Born on Jan. 6, 1968 in Los Angeles, Singleton was raised by his father, Danny, a real estate agent and financial planner, and his mother, Shella, a pharmaceutical sales representative; his parents never wed and later shared custody after he was born. Singleton discovered screenwriting while in high school and later attended the University of Southern California, where he studied film on a Black Alumni Association scholarship. He also won the Robert Riskin Writing Award and twice earned the Jack Nicholson Writing Award. Soon after graduating USC in 1990, Singleton made an assured debut as a writer and director with "Boyz N the Hood" (1991), a richly compelling coming-of-age tale about a young South Central youth (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) who struggles to stay on the right path while living with his strict father (Lawrence Fishburne). Having received major studio backing and a showcase at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival, the film found a spark of hope amid its bleak, violence-ridden South Central Los Angeles setting to become one of the top-grossing features ever made by a black filmmaker. Almost unanimously praised by the critics, "Boyz" earned Oscar nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Director, the latter of which made history as Singleton became both the first black and also the youngest filmmaker nominated in the category.

As a follow-up, Singleton helmed the 1992 Michael Jackson video "Remember the Time," featuring Jackson, Eddie Murphy, Iman and Magic Johnson in an Egyptian setting. Meanwhile, he set to work on his second feature, "Poetic Justice" (1993), a modern romance set in turbulent South Central L.A. that paired singers-turned-actors Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur. While the film received a warm reception at the box office, critics were less than enthusiastic, though many cited the film's softer touch and fine performances from the two leads. Singleton moved on to "Higher Learning" (1995), which followed three college freshman (Kristy Swanson, Omar Epps and Michael Rapaport), who find themselves confronting racism, sexism and intolerance atop of normal adolescent problems. The film received moderate praise, though Singleton again failed to overwhelm critics and audiences who were primed for great things following "Boyz N the Hood." For the first time in his career, Singleton was a director-for-hire on his next project, "Rosewood" (1997), starring Ving Rhames, Jon Voight and Don Cheadle. The true story of a nearly all-black town on the Florida panhandle that was destroyed by white rednecks in 1923, "Rosewood" was virtually overlooked by audiences at the box office, even though the film earned Singleton his best reviews since his inaugural film.

Singleton became more comfortable as a studio director with his loose remake of the famed 1970s blaxploitation flick, "Shaft" (2000), which starred Samuel L. Jackson as the hard-edged nephew of the original detective (Richard Roundtree), who investigates a racially-motivated murder committed by the son (Christian Bale) of a wealthy construction tycoon, which leads Shaft to track down the only key witness who can finger the killer. Despite the ink spilled over Jackson's on-set confrontations with producer Scott Rudin and screenwriter Richard Price, "Shaft" was a mild critical and commercial success for Singleton, who was by this point disappearing more and more into the background. He followed up with the far more personal "Baby Boy" (2001), a sort of companion piece to "Boyz N the Hood," which focused on an immature 20-year-old African-American kid (Tyrese Gibson), who has fathered two children with two different women (Taraji P. Henson and Tamara LeSeon Bass) and finally meets his match when his mother's reformed gangster boyfriend (Ving Rhames) moves in. Taking Tyrese Gibson with him, Singleton jumped aboard to helm "2 Fast, 2 Furious" (2003), the high-octane, but critically-panned sequel to the sleeper thriller "The Fast and the Furious" (2001). Despite a been-there-done-that vibe, a plot plucked from some 1980s television show and a void left behind from the first film's star, Vin Diesel, "2 Fast" had enough thrills and excitement to earn $127 million in domestic box office, making it the biggest commercial hit to that point of Singleton's career.

After producing the acclaimed "Hustle & Flow" (2005), starring Terrance Howard as a middle-aged pimp hoping to reinvent himself as a rap star, Singleton helmed "Four Brothers" (2005), a remake of John Wayne's "The Sons of Katie Elder" (1965) set in the streets of modern-day Detroit. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Andre 3000, Tyrese Gibson and Garrett Hedlund as four adoptive brothers - two black, two white - whose mother is gunned down in a grocery story robbery, "Four Brothers" was a straight-forward and unabashed revenge thriller that disappointed critics for its simplistic narrative and glorification of vigilantism. Despite less-than-stellar reviews, "Four Brothers" faired well at the box office, earning close to $75 million during its theatrical release. In 2007, Singleton was involved in a fatal car accident in Los Angeles that claimed the life of 57 year-old Constance Russell, who stepped in front of the director's car while not using a crosswalk. Singleton was released after questioning when police determined no drugs or alcohol was involved. Though turned over to the district attorney's office, no charges were filed. Meanwhile, he helmed the action thriller, "Abduction" (2011), which starred Taylor Lautner as a teenager who learns he was kidnapped as a child and gets caught in a vast conspiracy that forces him to go on the run in order to survive.