John Singleton's acclaimed drama celebrates 20th anniversary.
The opening scene of Boyz n the Hood set an ominous tone with the two messages presented on the screen. The first was, "One out of every twenty-one Black American males will be murdered in their lifetime." The second was just as nihilistic: "Most will die at the hands of another Black male." Both, however, were true, and a testament to the times, one of many reasons why the film resonated with so many upon release in summer 1991.
Directed by John Singleton, Boyz n the Hood chronicles the lives of three young Black males growing up in South Central Los Angeles. L.A. was then known as the gang capital of America, and drugs and gang violence were all synonymous with the section of the city that the movie was based on. The film starred Cuba Gooding Jr., Angela Bassett, Nia Long, Regina King, Morris Chestnut, Ice Cube and Lawrence Fishburne.
John Singleton was only 22 years old when he sold his stereotype-defying script to Columbia Pictures. In an interview, Stephanie Allain, who worked at the studio at the time, said she was in search of an assistant to read her scripts when she met Singleton. She told Movieline: “I heard about this young guy from USC who might want a job [at Columbia] so he came in, and he didn’t want to talk about the job. He just wanted to talk to me about this script that he had written.”
On the film, the celebrated director explained to NPR: "It's a story that a lot of those cats used to make in the '80s, in the suburbs, but made in the 'hood. I loved the pictures, but none of those people looked like me.” Singleton has also said in past interviews that he drew inspiration from Spike Lee while making the film.
At the time Singleton had never directed a feature film and reportedly turned down $100,000 to allow someone else to direct the script he penned. He declined, and following the release of Boyz n the Hood, Singleton became the youngest and first African-American to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Director, at the age of 24. Singleton also grabbed a nod for Best Original Screenplay. In 2002, the United States Library of Congress deemed Boyz n the Hood “culturally significant,” and the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
(Photo: Columbia Pictures)