Oscar-nominated director John Singleton, who is best known for such films as Boyz n the Hood and Poetic Justice, has died at the age of 51, his family said in a statement to The Associated Press.
The director had been in a medically-induced coma at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center since suffering a catastrophic stroke on April 17.
Singleton was the first black filmmaker ever nominated for an Oscar in the best director category—at the age of just 23. He was considered an influential member of a community of black filmmakers who turned the movie industry upside-down in the ’90s along with Spike Lee, Matty Rich, Julie Dash, and F. Gary Gray.
Singleton’s family announced the decision to take him off life support earlier in the day.
“It is with heavy hearts we announce that our beloved son, father and friend, John Daniel Singleton will be taken off of life support today,” the statement said, according to The Associated Press. “This was an agonizing decision, one that our family made, over a number of days, with the careful counsel of John’s doctors.”
Singleton’s final days were tumultuous. His mother, Sheila Ward, said that he was in a coma and filed papers to become his temporary conservator last week. But some of his children disputed Ward’s characterization of his medical state, and tried to prevent her from becoming her son’s legal guardian.
As news of his death broke, celebrities flocked to Twitter to memorialize the icon.
“John was a brave artist and a true inspiration,” wrote filmmaker Jordan Peele. “His vision changed everything.”
“My prayers go out today to John Singleton and his family,” said actor and director Robert Townsend. “May God bless the young cinematic king who gave us images that will stay with us forever.”
“Mourning the loss of a collaborator & True Friend John Singleton,” wrote Samuel L. Jackson. “He blazed the trail for many young film makers, always remaining true to who he was & where he came from!!! RIP Brother. Gone Way Too Soon!”
Singleton reflected on his career in an interview with The Daily beast earlier this year. “I look at stuff now like, ‘OK, that’s where I was in my early twenties. That’s how I was thinking in my early twenties,’” he said. “I was trying to work it out and I appreciate being allowed to work it out. Now, you don’t get a chance to learn on the job. I learned on the job. I had the chance to have triumphs and mistakes and learn from those mistakes by making films. And I’m very grateful for it.”
Singleton, who had been a vocal critic of Hollywood’s marginalization of black directors, writers and actors, said progress still had to be made to level the playing field in Hollywood.
“They want to water us down, water [the stories] down, make the stories neutral and not potent,” he said, acknowledging that things are better than when he won his Oscar nomination 30 years earlier. “The audience won’t allow it anymore—other people telling our black stories. That’s old. You need someone, a conscious African-American, to tell certain stories. Not a puppet that’s going to do whatever.”
Singleton is survived by five children from two wives.