John Singleton’s Hollywood Hustle
By Nicole D. Sconiers

It seems that John Singleton’s movies are almost
guaranteed to become instant hood classics. Since
he swaggered on the scene with 1991’s
Boyz N the
, and directed subsequent hits like Higher
Learning, Shaft,
and Baby Boy, the filmmaker seems
to have the Midas touch with both Hollywood and
the homies.

So why did last summer’s hit,
Hustle & Flow, almost
get shelved?

Major studios initially slept on the movie, written and
directed by newcomer Craig Brewer, but Singleton
was determined to give it the greenlight. He was so
compelled by the script that he and his producing
partner Stephanie Allain put up their own funds – to
the tune of nearly $3 million – to get it made. Their
hustling paid off. After winning the Audience Award
at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, an intense
bidding war for
Hustle & Flow broke out. Singleton
managed to parlay that buzz into a lucrative $9
million deal with  Paramount Classics/MTV Films,
part of a $16 million package deal.

“I never doubted it would become a hit. It was just a
matter of how huge of a hit,” he says confidently
during our interview. Howard, the hazel-eyed hottie
Crash and Ray, has been dubbed the black
Marlon Brando, and has seen his career
skyrocketing into the stratosphere with the success
Hustle & Flow, his recent Oscar nod being just
one indication.

Singleton agrees. "Terrence is a really good actor.
He’s going to be one of the great actors of his
generation. Everybody in Hollywood  is trying to
meet with him right now," he reports. Although
critically acclaimed performances abound, one
wonders if stereotypes and pimps down/ho’s up
language will offend female fans. John doesn't
foresee women being turned off, but empowered by
the portrayals in the movie. "It seems to be that all
the women [moviegoers] really like it. The women in
the piece stand up to DJay. They're just not
subservient to him," he explains.

Even though he is an inspiration to many black
filmmakers banging their heads against Hollywood’s
glass ceiling, Singleton scoffs at the notion of being
"the great black hope."

"I don’t get into all of that. I just try to do what I gotta
do to make it interesting," he maintains. He does
admit that he views himself as a role model, and
encourages up-and-coming directors not to sell out
while pursuing their dreams.  

"You can stay the course. You don’t have to give up
your soul to make it in this business," he stresses. If
Singleton’s own journey is any indication, Tinsel
Town can't knock his hustle.

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