Bet You Didn’t Know: Secrets Behind the Making of “Boyz N The Hood”

May 7, 2012  |  
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If there’s anything we can learn from the making of “Boyz N The Hood,” it’s that you should never underestimate a person with a dream. Singleton was fresh out of college when he was shopping the script for this film around. Hollywood tried to get over on him since he was a newbie, but the man, though young, was no fool. Looking at all the odds John Singleton had stacked up against him, it’s amazing that his film was made and that it became such a commercial and cultural success. The movie, that only cost around $6 million to produce, eventually earned $60 million during its run in the box office, earning the young director a million dollar bonus.  Singleton has described the film as a “time capsule of what Los Angeles was 20 years ago.” The fact that this movie is still lauded as a classic, 21 years later, just goes to show you how smart and powerful this film was and how right Singleton was in his assessment.


Where Did the Story Come From?

You know, they say in order to write a good story you have to write what you know. And that’s just what Singleton did with his first picture. Boyz, which he took three weeks to write, is largely autobiographical. Like his protagonist “Tre Styles,” Singleton’s parents were no longer together and he left his mother’s house in Inglewood, to live with his dad in South Central, L.A.  Even the self-loathing cop was a real life fixture in Singleton’s neighborhood. Like most great ideas, there were several instances that inspired it. After coming from movies, Singleton and his friends would often say that while they enjoyed the films and the characters they didn’t see anyone who looked like them and would spend time talking about the movies they would make. But Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing changed the game and gave Singleton the push to make his hypothetical movies a reality. After Do The Right Thing, Singleton was inspired to produce a West Coast version of life for many blacks. Source


Who’s Going to Direct It?

Singleton was still a student at USC when he finished Boyz  so he had to find a way to get his script into the right hands. And he did a little scheming to get it there. He pretended he was interested in a job with Columbia Pictures and set up an informational interview with new executive, Stephanie Allain and instead of talking about the position he claimed he was interested in, he gave her what would eventually become Boyz N The Hood. A black woman herself, Allain was deeply moved by the story and took it to the higher ups. But it wasn’t smooth sailing from there. The studio thought Singleton was too young to direct his film and they offered him $100,000 for the script. Luckily, he declined and threatened to take the project somewhere else.

This is what he had to say about it: ” They asked me if I would consider anybody else directing it?” Singleton replied, “Hell, no, I’m not gonna let somebody from Idaho or Encino direct a movie about living in south-central Los Angeles. They can’t come in here and cast it and go through the rewrites and know exactly what aesthetics are unique to this film.” Smart move.


Folks were Giving Cuba the Run Around

They weren’t too sure about Gooding for this role. And he didn’t take it too well. In fact, he kind of broke down. Last year, during the film’s 20th anniversary, he was speaking at the Los Angeles Film Festival where he recounted the story.

“After I met John, he said, ‘This is great, we’re going to put you on tape.’ I went home, about a week or two passed and then I got another call saying, ‘We’re going to put you on tape. […] The studio wants you screen tested again. They have other actors in mind.’ So I came back in and screen tested again. And again. I think a total of three times. My agent calls and tells me I get the gig. ‘Come down, you’re going to do two weeks of rehearsal.’ On the first day of rehearsal we’re all sitting around a big table running a scene and John says, ‘Hey, Cuba, come here. They want you to screen test again.’ I was so upset that I went in that room, did my scene and I remember the tears just falling down my face out of frustration. After, they were like, ‘That was great. Don’t worry.’ I went back to rehearse, rehearsed for eight hours. Then someone came up to me and said, ‘Congratulations, you have the job.’ And I said, ‘Until tomorrow!’ I was so upset, I cried like a little girl.”

Honestly, it sounds like the fact that they left Gooding in the dark for so long, is probably what got him this role. Would he have been able to tap into those emotions, if he’d been handed the part too easily? Probably not.



You Scared?

The decision to allow Singleton to direct his own film didn’t come back and bite Columbia in the butt. He proved to be more competent than his 24 years would indicate. On set Singleton wanted to get real, authentic reactions from his cast members so during the filming of the movie, he never told the actors when gunshots would be fired. That way their reaction to the “surprise” gunshots would be more believable.



N.W.A. was supposed to be “Doughboy’s” Crew

Ice Cube wasn’t the only person Singleton had in mind for the film. He wanted the N.W.A. crew to portray “Doughboy’s” friends in the movie. But seeing as Cube and Eazy E were beefing at the time, it didn’t happen. There is a slight mention to him though. There’s a scene where a thief tries to rob “Doughboy” and his crew. Doughboy and his boys beat the thief up, while he’s wearing a shirt that says, “We Want Eazy.” Sounds very intentional, doesn’t it?


Some people just don’t know how to act…

You know the people who fight in the club and ruin the night for everybody? Well, the same thing happened in theaters when Boyz  was released. Some people clearly missed the message and violence between gangs broke out during the screening of the film in several cities across the country. 30 people were injured and one person was killed. Foolishness. The violence caused some theaters not to show the film.

And They Love It

Though a few theaters refused to screen the film. It was still well received all over the world. When the film was first screened at the Cannes Film Festival in France, the audience gave Singleton a 20 minute standing ovation. And that wouldn’t be the last of the accolades. That year, Singleton became the youngest director and first African American to be nominated for Best Director and Best Screenplay by the Academy. In 2002, eleven years after the film’s release, the Library of Congress hailed the film as “culturally significant” and added it to the National Film Registry. Talk about iconic.

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  • Sakitome

    We stay complaining about someone’s depiction of us yet so few of us are striving to make good films and put money into creation of movies and tv (the white mans invention).

  • Jessjanet32

    I love this kind of insight and behind-the-scenes kind of stuff. I hope you do this about more movies.

  • Mls2698

    Well, let me try and see what happens. ” Where you goin’ you lil’ fat fukker? you ain’t got no job.”

  • Chanda

    Let the ladies eat first, hoes gotta eat too.

    Who you callin’ a ho I ain’t no ho?!

    Oops. Sorry, bish.

    •  But u also gotta include:
      I’m like Samson; my strength is in my hair.
      said by the bad guy with the long wavy curl

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  • JadeJones

    Please do more articles like this I love to learn about our movies!

  • Stacy

    WTH is with these self playing videos?  They are so annoying

  • Guestie

    NOW THAT was worth clicking through.
    Good job MN!

  • Sweety-b

    Well written!  I didin’t know a lot of these facts layed out here about Boyz… think I wanna see the movie again 😉

  • Photabulous1

    Biggups..John Singleton..great movie..learned alot & it is still very entertaining today!

  • RenJennM

    This was a great film. But I never knew it was so huge and iconic. I wasn’t even born when it was released. But when something’s a classic, it doesn’t matter when you were born, you’re going to end up seeing it eventually.

  • Mls2698

    I think BITH was classic, but why is it that all the huge awards are given only when its something degrading being shown about blacks?  I choose not to quote from this movie because MN is way too sensitive.


      I’m curious, how was BITH degrading towards blacks? Boys In The Hood was as degrading to blacks as Bronx Tales was degrading to Italians? -No judgement just wondering what your POV was?

      • Mls2698

        I feel the same about all of those movies. When Denzel said, ” King kong ain’t got nothin’ on me” and some other words in ” Training Day” that MN is, as I said too sensitive about,  the awards came flying off the shelves, but love stories/ love of each other……never. Every time we score, it is some degradation. BITH was a good movie, indeed. I didn’t see it at the theaters, but my ex-husband came home acting like a lil’ beytch because he was from the hood.

      • Mls2698

        Also, just want to know your POV………I was an adult when that movie presented in the theaters.Why do you think violence broke out? What do you think was the mindset? I’ve never understood that.

        • LUVBNBLK

          I hear you regarding Hollywood not loving us when we are truly exceptional e.g. Denzel in Malcolm X and Hurricane, but I don’t think BITH is a denigrating movies either. There are tons of urban trash flick out there that glorify the hood, BITH didn’t do that. What was happening in the black community need to be seen and the movie deserved the recognition. I do believe that before expecting Hollywood to show us love, we need to love ourselves more by supporting worthwhile books, TV shows and movies.
          Re: the violence, I think that when faced with an enemy that doesn’t have a face ignorant people attack the face that most resembles themselves, because for you to possess irrational hate for other you must practice by hating yourself first.

          • Mls2698

            Yeah, I hear you. Have you ever seen this movie called ” Fresh” with Sam Jackson? He plays the father of a kid that lives in the projects of New York, and has tons of obstacles to overcome at the age of only 12. I don’t remember it winning any awards, but it was very real. Check out this movie called ” Just Another Girl on the IRT ” if you haven’t already seen. Lol on ” I was going to just pass, but.” And the person who spell checked.

            • LUVBNBLK

              LOL, I’m trying to be good, I made a promise reduce my prickishness by 45%, but online folks never make it easy. You are on the money with Fresh a very Sun Tzu- Art of War type of flick. Also great performances by Nbushe, Giancarlo and Sean Nelson(?). I vaguely remember “Just another Girl on the IRT” -thanks I got to check that one out again. Let’s not forget Lawanna Blues, Panther, Crooklyn, Rosewood and Glory.

              • Mls2698

                I can’t with  ” Crooklyn” sometimes. If i try to act as if my allergies are bothering me one more time while watching that, somebody is going to catch on. Sneak and watch.

                • LUVBNBLK

                  Crooklyn, was play last night. I was prepared with my visine and complained about “dry eyes” inadvance that way I can added drops during the more “eye irritable” moments. A dude crying over Crooklyn and Toy Story 3 won’t get me any swexy points.

                  • Mls2698

                    Too much!

            • Ladybug94

              Wasn’t “Just Another Girl on the IRT” the first movie Kerry Washington starred in?.  It’s been a while since I’ve seen it.

    • Lesy

      I understand you the person below you who commented is missing the point when blacks feed into pip, hoe, drug dealer and killer role we get rewarded as being real. I understand what she is saying …You cannot compare an italian move to this sweetie. Know your history. no other race on the face of this earth understands the plight of being black in America. Menstrual shows, not being able to vote and being considered being chattle. I hate when people compate other races with movies that stereotype them. Its a different playing field

      • msMaki

        wow, so i guess the indians I.E. NATIVE americans, had it easy then huh???

      • LUVBNBLK

        LOL…I  was going to just pass, but… You assume to know my mind. Please show mw where BITH glorified pimp, whoredom, drug dealing and/or killers. I watched this movie as a young adult when it was in the movie. I wonder if we watched the same movie? BTW, I never said that Hollywood doesn’t love a destructive negro, I am however discussing this particular movie “Boyz in the Hood”. I mention “Bronx Tale” because both movies have mirrored themes and issues. Watch them both and you’ll see for yourself. Just wow, about you tell me to “know my history”, particularly with your spelling and grammar – SMH.

      •  Minstrel Shows. not Menstrual.

        • LUVBNBLK

          Alex maybe they were showing them at the Kotex Theater. *baadumm-bumm* – SMH @ myself

          • Mls2698

            Thought you said you were cutting back??? LOLLLLLL!! Gooood one.

            • LUVBNBLK

              My Halo is held up by a pair of horns 😉 – pray for me

      • Sakitome

        Leaning to spell those words is paramount to success hun.

        • Sakitome