‘Boyz n the Hood’ Director John Singleton Not ‘Worried’ About White Oscars: ‘There’s Only So Many Slots’

John Singleton Diversity
Jim Smeal/REX Shutterstock

While Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith have called for an Oscar boycott, John Singleton, who became the first African-American nominated for the best director Academy Award for his 1991 film “Boyz n the Hood,” doesn’t have a problem with this year’s diversity-lacking nominations.

Singleton, who’s directing an episode of FX’s upcoming “People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” says the nominees depend less on race and more on what’s eligible in a given year’s award cycle.

“There’s only so many slots, though,” Singleton told Variety when asked why the Academy did not nominate any African-American nominees. “There are a couple of movies that may have (warranted attention) but … It’s all subjective. It’s almost like the lottery.”

Singleton continued, “It’s like every year people complain. People even complain even when we have a lot of nominations. It is what it is. I’ve been in the game for 25 years. You never know — it’s the luck of the draw for you. To me, I’m not surprised. I’m not disappointed either, as much as other people are disappointed. There’s a whole elevation of work that happens.”

Elaborating on that “elevation,” Singleton explains that each year, films are snubbed, and some of those unrepresented projects gain awareness and recognition after award season.

“Every year there’s at least a few films that don’t get nominated and you have all these films that do get nominated and then the films that aren’t nominated are elevated over time. ‘Do the Right Thing’ never got nominated for best picture, but that year, nobody’s talking about ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ any more. Everybody’s still talking about ‘Do the Right Thing.’ It happens every year.”

Though he was nominated for “Boyz n the Hood” (marking not only the first black director to be nominated, but also the youngest person ever in that category at the age of 24), Singleton recalls a piece of advice he received at that time.

“As my friend Sidney Poitier told me when ‘Boyz n the Hood’ came out, just because a film doesn’t get recognized when it first comes out, does not mean it’s not a great film. ‘Singing in the Rain’ was not lauded when it first came out, but ‘Singing in the Rain’ became a classic,” he said. “To me, as a veteran, it doesn’t bother me as much. I know there are other works that will be recognized by a more diverse Academy and I know there will be other years when work that is really deserving doesn’t get recognized.”

However, Singleton, who has also directed an episode of “Empire,” was upset by one snub: “I do think ‘Straight Outta Compton’ could have been nominated for best picture,” he said, adding that Jason Mitchell, who portrayed Eazy-E, should have earned a best supporting actor nod, at the very least.

“The demographics of America and this business are changing,” Singleton said. “The Academy’s going to evolve. So I’m not really worried about it.”

Cynthia Littleton conducted the interview with Singleton for this report.

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  1. Film Freak says:

    I agree with him 100%. Who cares what these old fossils think anyway? They’ve gotten it wrong before with not awarding amazing movies (A Clockwork Orange, Mulholland Drive, Fargo, Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Requiem for a Dream, Blade Runner, a ton of Chinese Fifth Generation movies. Hell, even Chinatown only won one award…ONE. The list goes on…). Like, this is nothing new and they will probably do it again in the future. Why? Because bad taste is eternal. I really don’t get why people are under the mistaken impression that only “good” movies win, time and time again this is proven not true. They just don’t know good movies, but so what? That doesn’t mean the good movies themselves stop being good. If you love the film (or film in general), spread the word. Start a cult following. Good movies find their audience eventually. I rather watch a movie that has won NO awards than a film that has won 50. Hell, even Jean Luc Godard’s movies have never won an oscar (though they did try to get him an honorary oscar as they did with Kurosawa, and even Godard said it was bull$h!t!…albeit, in his own, messy way).

    Also “Higher Learning” is easily one of my favorite movies :D

    • Film Freak says:

      And in response to some of the comments below, this is not to be dismissive of the valid concerns people have raised about the fact that the awards are still inherently biased towards White People. At this point, it’s like saying water is wet and the Pope is catholic. Practically everything is biased towards white people (I mean, hello systematic racism) and I am all for calling these things out as needed be. I just also want people to consider films outside of the dictums (I couldn’t think of a better word to describe it) which we use to judge “good” movies. The Academy exists in a bubble of nationalism and willfully recognizes any films that are American as the “standard” and anything outside of it as “foreign”. This should tell you everything you need to know about the Oscars and to be honest with you, why anyone expects this kind of system to evolve at this point is beyond me. It’s old, archaic and was never meant to be inclusive. It harkens back to something Louis C.K. said about Late Night Television, and how it was a platform built for old white guys. This is EXACTLY how I see the Oscars and frankly, the Hollywood film industry.

      If you were to ask me what is the best film of this year on an international scale, I couldn’t even BEGIN to answer that question for you. So trying to reduce a “best” picture to films that are only domestically recognized in the USA (which is ridiculous because Hollywood is not even the biggest film industry in the world! Like what is this, people?) also seems silly to me. At least Cannes has given the Palm D’or to foreign films COUNTLESS times (Farewell, My Concubine won a Palm D’Or, Oldeuboi won Grand Prix, it goes on and on). In order for the Oscars to ever redeem itself, it would have to COMPLETELY restructure the awards show so it wouldn’t be so caught up in “Hollywood” and recognize that the film industry is a GLOBAL industry, not just an American one.

  2. Visicalc says:

    Mss Jada, what about Asian actors? First Nations actors? Left-handed actors? Give me a break, if next year we get a disproportionate number of African American actores nominated, what are you going to say then? Not fair? White should be represented in the same proportion whites inhabit the country? Tell you husband to learn acting from the Great Ones and stop this childish campaign.

  3. Henry says:

    Finally, a Hollywood man with common sense!! Thank you John Singleton. The whole thing is being blown out of proportion. If only there were more people like you in Hollywood.

    • S.e. Woodard says:

      Yes, I also agree with Singleton. He is a true voice of reason for this issue. It’s the Oscars and receiving one doesn’t guarantee you more work. The Pinkett-Smith boycott is just plain silly. Will has never been a stand out actor in my view. He’s only popular because he’s viewed as a non threatening black man and in my view not a very good actor at all. I only see less work being offered to these two elitists in the future.

  4. Irri says:

    OMG- someone one who can think logically and independently –in Hollywood!!! I don’t think I can take this – I need to sit down! About damned time someone shows some intelligence ! kudos! My RESPECT!

  5. that dude says:

    He’s so on point. We make a big deal out of sh^t that doesn’t really matter. You win some you lose some. Just keep pushing on.

  6. shellyleit says:

    If people don’t like the Oscars as they are, don’t watch them, don’t bother with them. There are plenty of other awards shows. Eventually they will change, but by then, few people will care. People get their entertainment now from 1,000 sources, not just the mainstream stuff that always gets nominated. (Personally I’m always pissed off when sci-fi gets ignored, as it nearly always is.) The old joke is make a movie about WWII or the Nazis and it will win the big awards. That’s how out of date these award shows are.

  7. Nikki says:

    Forget the Oscars. Let’s start our own Award show honoring great talents in cinema named after Paul Robeson #Blacks4RobesonAwards

  8. revmo50 says:

    A voice of reason.

  9. African American’s should simply start their own awards recognition’s and leave Caucasians to their own awards shows and any thing else that lacks diversity and recognition and inclusion… I for one, am so exhausted of the obvious relationship between the two groups… African Americans should just walk away from all things Caucasian.

      • S.e. Woodard says:

        This isn’t really about people of color not receiving Oscar recognition. It’s about Jada feeling slighted because she honestly thinks Will is a good actor. He’s mediocre at best and the movies he stars in have excellent story lines, he however has yet to do more than read the script he memorized and maybe throw in an accent. He could never pull off a part like rain man or sling blade. A good movie leaves you thinking about the character, Will Smith movies leave you thinking about Will Smith, not the character he played. Instead of a boycott Jada should call for acting lessons.

  10. B Da Truth says:

    Maybe when Blacks stop referring to themselves as African -Americans and start just referring to themselves as Americans, we can get to that color blind society most of us want, except of course for those who profit off racist division and hate.

  11. Karl Spencer says:

    This is a lesson in life. No one owes anyone anything. What you earn, how you succeed is in direct proportion to how hard you work, how much you sacrifice and how you are responsible for your own actions. Anyone dumb enough to place their success at the feet of someone else deserves to get nothing in life. Don’t look to get a pat on the back from others for everything you do instead find solace in the fact that you gave it your all for yourself and those you love.

  12. Mike says:

    Should you recieve a nomination just because you’re black or did you not recieve a nomination just because you’re black

    That is the million dollar question???

  13. Give the whiners a participation trophy, just like give in youth sports, just to make them feel better

  14. reality says:

    the whole way the system is set up is to exclude everyone including other countries

    it needs to collapse

    it’s abusive and phony

  15. Tom says:

    Lets get my bias out of the way right upfront…white dude here.

    I dont follow the Hollywood scene much if at all…so …I have a question?

    Were the winners acceptable , except for their skin color, that won? Did they perform to the level they were awarded? (I dont even know who “THEY” were; so I really dont know).

    This is maybe the third or fourth article on this subject Ive read, and the one thing that strikes me, is none of the articles say people who won, or the movies that won…were NOT worthy of winning…NOT ONE article made that claim!

    So is the demand that the people who actually deserve the award for their performances compared to their actors/actresses in their peer groups, get the award? or is that we want to give an equal amount of awards out based on skin color (which in itself sounds like racism) regardless of if the actor or actresses performance was superior? See if its the latter then the purpose of giving out awards becomes moot…because throughout history in sports, academics, professional fields…excellence (performance) gets awarded, and not making sure ever race or every sex , or every faith gets awarded…if that happens we will have categories like Best Black Actor, best White Actor, Best Asain Action, Best American Indian ACtor, Best Latino ACtor…but NO BEST Actor…that doesn t make any sense…and would be an insult to the winners..because the trend would be, if by chance say a white guy was the only guy who acted that year, but his performance s u c k e d…he would get Best White actor…even though he s u c k e d…that makes no sense at all..why reward poor performance just to make sure “everybody” gets recognized…that would kill the movie industry…very s t u p i d.

    • Top5DOA says:

      [Black guy here] Well in this particular case the Oscars haven’t happened yet, so we can’t necessarily say if the winner deserved it or not. Snubs happen all the time and sometimes the one that one “shouldn’t have” (personal opinion).

      Awarding things based on skin color would be discriminatory not racist by the way.

      But I agree, ultimately it should be based on who earns the award and not based upon them earning it based upon their skin color. I think the issue ppl have this year is that no black people even have the opportunity to earn an award as they were not nominated. So, instead of a particular movie or actor/actress being snubbed, it now looks like an entire race is being snubbed which looks a bit different. I haven’t seen Straight Outta Compton yet, but I haven’t heard one negative review which is shocking so idk maybe it should’ve been nominated irrespective of race. Ultimately, I pretty much agree with everything John Singleton said tho.

    • PR says:

      Dont waste your time trying to figure out childish tantrums. That is all this is. Apparently “content of character” doesnt matter anymore, it is all about color of the skin. The only reason these people even care about SOC is that it is about blacks.

  16. Jemmy says:

    I’ve always been disappointed that the rap and hip hop industry is so poorly represented by whites and Asian Americans, especially when it comes to the awards. Vanilla Ice never got the recognition he deserved. We can do better!

  17. You all cry if you win and you cry if you lose. Nobody cares. I blame the idiot reporters who asked the stupid question. Are you going to boycott? This is so stupid. 300mil. Americans don’t care. Should be a quota in the NBA and NFL. You think about what we do all the time. We never think about you. Get your own Oscar show.

  18. bfd says:

    I’m so sick of black people complaining. it’s like they want everything cause they’re black. ever think maybe earning something on merit would maybe actually true???

  19. Sal says:

    I’m a guy who leans to the right and take issue with many of the black community’s views on many things. Although I am an occasional movie viewer, I thought the actor who played Creed did a wonderful job of acting and should have been nominated for something.
    Hollywood racist? I’m shocked, shocked.

  20. maxovrdriv says:

    My gosh, so it has come down to this even with the movies. What, no awards for black female lesbians, who are jewish with an adopted child from Africa. I am going to protest. How about the fact they didn’t think any of the movies they were in, or their performances were as good this year. get over it.

  21. Greggan says:

    Celebrate that Straight Outta Compton grossed $200 million worldwide. If there were Oscars for effort, it would be nominated, but it’s just not a great movie.

  22. Rick says:

    Make a really good movie, and get nominated. No, really.

  23. Jimmy not THAT jimmy says:

    Here is my suggestion to all those who are “snubbed”. Stop assessing your own worth by what others think of you. Most adults understand that.

  24. El Cid says:

    That this subject is even in people’s minds is absolutely sick.
    Obama has turned race relations back decades.

  25. Kevin says:

    Ever day the average person goes to work and hopes that they make enough money to survive with there family. They work hard just to make ends meet. Here are a lot of actors that are paid millions of dollars a year, live in the best of homes, drive the best cars, go to dinner at the best restaurants where the normal employees, the gardner, the guy that washes their cars are doing the best job they can do. The actors seem to think that they deserve a award for doing something that the everyday person would love to do and for a lot less. Do they go and thank the person that found them, do they thank the writers that created that persona for them, do they thank the director, the costume designer that made them appear to be a certain way. The common everyday person doesn’t get an award for their work, the mother who sit by their sick child in the hospital, doesn’t get a reward. Why should you or any other actor expect to get a reward, your reward should be the job, maybe the next job you get because of your last job. Jada Smith, you are acting like that twit with Shane. Go up and be thank fun that you and your husband, looks like your kids to are fortunate to be able to do those jobs. It’s not black or white, it’s quality of your character that should be your reward

  26. John Jones says:

    Blacks do need to boycott the Oscars. WAY too White. Lily white!

    And, we Whites need to boycott the NBA and NFL. WAY TOO BLACK! Charcoal black.

  27. Tim says:

    Give everyone with darker skin pigmentation than those determined to be whatever white is, a trophy for the correct skin color. Everybody goes home without hurt feelings. They could even have a seating section for black only, parking areas for black only and black only menus…..hmmmm 1960’s all over.

  28. Old Salt says:

    I think Samuel L. Jackson should have been nominated…for heavens sake…!

    DiCaprio should NOT have been nominated…
    Revenant was Hollywood PHONY as HELL…
    and just what “acting” did he do ?

  29. sickofthefarleft says:

    This guy is a class act. And that’s all I’m going to say about it.

  30. jeanmchambers says:

    Okay. You black folk have to bring your uppity attitudes back to earth. You have no problem having an all black beauty pagent, college, tv network, movie awards, music awards…, but you have the nerve to think white folk HAVE to give you some kind of an award just because you are black.

    I’ve news for you. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, special about being black… or white, or yellow, or green, or whatever.

    Stop being so freaking racist!! If white folk were as racist as blacks, you’d all be back in chains. Personally, I don’t believe in that. I think it would be better if all ‘African’ descendants would go back to their wonderful, Africa, and leave the rest of the world alone. If you hate whites, and this great nation that whites built, LEAVE!!

    • jf says:

      That’s really a very racist comment. It’s just unloving. Why not focus on has nada and will, why all African americans?
      And vice versa to the African Americans who want to paint all white people with the same brush.

      We’re all Americans.
      The world is on fire. It’s not going to end well if we can’t get it together.

    • El Cid says:

      Thumbs up!!!

  31. B Da Truth says:

    I guess Hollywood and America hasn’t been good enough to Will and Jada Smith, and somehow I doubt anything will ever be good enough for them. I’m glad this guy spoke up.

    • You’re out of your racist mind. Native Americans were already here. They’re the only ones who have a right to be here. Oh, Whites didn’t build a damn thing but what Whites did do was murder, rape, steal and enslave. So if anyone should leave this country is people like you. And as a matter of fact, f*ck you and that’s coming from a “uppity” Black person.

  32. Eugene mellin says:

    O K Let’s Affirmative Action it. They can get a job they don’t deserve, they can win an a
    Oscar they haven’t earned.

    • B Da Truth says:

      Ah yes the noble savages living off the land in harmony with nature, and there was no starvation,, no rape,, no slavery, no robbery, disease or death during childbirth, no pillaging or injustice of any sort,.the same in Africa just utopia until the evil white devils arrived, what a good fictitious narrative that is.

  33. Giselle says:

    The film I thought was amazing and deserved a nod was Beasts of No Nation…incredible movie!

  34. Tiger says:

    What about BET black entertainment tv station . Maybe BET will give Straight out of Compton a award!

  35. free42317 says:

    I have read a lot of the same comments mostly from whites over and over and over about quality of work. Seems and if a black person does anything it’s less quality of work. Some whites have less quality of work and seem to still get what they don’t deserve why can’t blacks? If a white person gets it they deserve it if they’re black its a token. People love to say they are tired of the race card yet in the same sentence they say hateful racist things. I think a lot more people than blacks need to get over it. You’re not the only people allowed to complain, and yes white people you complain.

  36. The man is obviously a racist.

  37. therealone says:

    Hopefully Chris Rock doesn’t do anything stupid like that horrible horrible Christmas special he did with Bill Murray.

  38. therealone says:

    Boyz in the hood, great movie.

    Ice Cube needs to bring back his comedys.

  39. tess says:

    Well, what does the black community want here . Lets see, Oh I get it, reward them for something they don’t deserve. Don’t award for best , award for black. Ok , I get it.

  40. Patricia Henry says:

    Blacks are only 14% of the US population. Y’all need to get over yourselves!

  41. Becky says:

    I have a dream. It should be the ability of your acting and not the color of your skin. So what if a bunch of old guys in Hollywood don’t get it? When has Hollywood ever gotten it? But, no one deserves something because of their color. There’s a word for that; “racism!”

  42. Mike W says:

    I applaud Mr Singleton for being a realist, basing his response on facts and reality AND RE AFFIRM that members of the African American culture have become more and more racist BASING everything solely on the color of one’s skin (kinda like an inverted KKK member) as opposed to the content of one’s character and their actions (kinda like what MLK said people should do). And once again the media takes up the race based chant IGNORING FACTS (kinda like the Hands up Don’t shoot LIE).
    When this country stops basing things on color and bases things on character, actions and facts we will be better of. But like Obama has shown basing things on race is best for politicians when they divide this country and then separately whisper in the ear of the demographics they have divided to get them what they want in exchange for their vote.

  43. Brian Mack says:

    When will the BET Awards start a “white” category?

  44. dtde123 says:

    It’s baffling to me how Twitter can blow up regarding blacks not being nominated for an Oscar and yet there are crickets when it comes to the TOTAL destruction of jobs for blacks in this country. Amazing.

  45. Irwin "Nugent, Ted Nugent" Fletcher says:

    While the “demographics are changing” this country is not becoming more black – it means the country is becoming more brown and yellow. Relations between blacks and other non-whites are just as complicated as it is with whites.

  46. Citizen says:

    Sounds like an extremely intelligent man.

  47. T says:

    Mr Singleton, you had a fabulous role model shaping your thoughts on the real world: Sidney Poitier. Sadly, such fabulous role models are too few for our current batch of whiny pants who earn billions a year in acting and consider a snub to be more worthwhile than having earned an income.

  48. johnniemayes says:

    The facts are there weren’t any good black actors or directors this year. What’s the problem? Black people only make up about 10-15% of our population. We’re supposed to nominate minorities even if the content doesn’t match it’s rivals? Stupid orange slice/participation trophy mentality.

  49. Manlyman says:

    How strangely mature in this progressive world of identity politics.

  50. Aloha,
    Only problem I have with the boycott is why did it take some folks so long to figure out that Hollywood was racist and sexist.On the day after MLK jr Day, never forget, it wasn’t the marching that was effective it was the boycotting. Stop financing bigotry. Reduce your movie viewership to the things that you really like, everything else wait for it or get it another way.Same thing goes for sneakers and other articles of clothing. Spend that money on your health and education. You can never lose.

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