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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