Upon its release 25 years ago, on July 12, 1991, "Boyz N the Hood" was recognized as an instant landmark film.
The coming-of-age drama about three young African-American men in South Central Los Angeles launched a decade's worth of similar films. Plus, "Boyz" made a film star of veteran character actor Pee-wee's Playhouse." There, he met Fishburne, who played Cowboy Curtis on the show. Singleton promised the actor he'd write him a role where he didn't have to wear a Jheri Curl. It would be another three years before he made good on the promise.
2. It was on another backstage job, this time on Arsenio Hall's talk show, where Singleton first met Cube. He promised the N.W.A. rapper he'd write a movie role for him, too. They'd meet again several times over the next three years before Singleton finally got to cast Cube as Doughboy.
3. Working as a script reader at Columbia Pictures, Singleton got his own script passed all the way to studio chief Frank Price. He was offered $100,000 for it on the condition that he let someone with more experience direct it, but he refused to sell "Boyz" unless he could direct his own screenplay.
4. Cast as Furious Styles, the movie's lone father figure, when he was just 29, Fishburne was already a seasoned movie vet, having been cast as a sailor in Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam epic "Apocalypse Now" when he was just 14. Singleton took "Coppola lessons" from Fishburne, learning second-hand everything the actor knew about the legendary director's technique.
5. Coppola's influence on "Boyz" is clear, from the "Godfather"-style cross-cut editing to the "Apocalypse"-like sound design behind the omnipresent police helicopters patrolling the neighborhood. Singleton never actually shows the choppers, he merely suggests them through rotor noise and sweeping spotlights. In fact, he pitched this helicopter hack to studio chief Price as a way of keeping the budget modest.
6. The sense of danger from the South Central filming locations was real. "The set was about 10 blocks from my house. I could have walked, except that probably wouldn't have been the safest thing to do," recalled the movie's female lead, Nia Long.
Dialogue had to be re-recorded in the studio because of ambient noise -- real-life helicopters and gunshots. A Bloods spokesman, who called himself Bone, warned producers that if they filmed the climactic scene of Doughboy killing two Bloods on Blood turf, he couldn't guarantee that some angry Blood wouldn't retaliate and shoot Cube for real. Singleton shot the scene elsewhere.
7. Long was nervous about shooting her sex scene with Gooding, never having shot one before. He tried to calm her by picking his toenails and acting silly, but the tactic backfired. "Do you honestly think that is helping?" Long told her co-star. "It's making me want to throw up."
8. "Boyz" cost just $6.5 million to produce. It earned back $57.5 million in North America.
9. Violence broke out at screenings of "Boyz" around the country, with one fatality and 33 moviegoers injured. Some observers blamed the movie's gang content for the gunplay, even though "Boyz" was explicitly anti-violence. Singleton blamed the strife on the same social pathologies that the movie condemned -- street codes of vengeance and the scarcity of strong paternal role models in the community.
10. "Boyz" was nominated for two Oscars, for Singleton's original screenplay and his directing. At 24, he was the youngest person ever nominated for Best Director and the first African-American.