CLOSE
YouTube
YouTube

16 Surprising Facts About Boyz N the Hood

YouTube
YouTube

“One out of every 21 Black American males will be murdered in their lifetime. Most will die at the hands of another Black male.”

That’s the statistic that set the tone for audiences as they entered theaters 25 years ago today to see Boyz N the Hood, a film that took its title and one of its leads (Ice Cube) from the rap group N.W.A.

The film marked the feature directorial debut of John Singleton, who was just 23 years old at the time. With its raw story of life in South Central Los Angeles, the film shook the country and shocked the world with its unrelenting depictions of violence and poverty.

The cast of unknowns went on to become a who’s who of talented actors and actresses, and the film is now considered an undisputed classic that changed how stories were told on film, not just for “Black movies,” but for all of cinema.

1. THE STORY IS LARGELY AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL.

When writing the script, John Singleton (then 21 years old) pulled from his own life growing up in Los Angeles. The main character, Tre (played by Cuba Gooding Jr.), is sent to live with his father across town while his mother works and goes to school, which is the situation Singleton found himself in as a child. He has stated in interviews and in DVD commentary that several elements from his real life made it into the script and film, from the blocks where he used to live to the elementary school that he attended and even a few specific events, including the time his father shot at a fleeing burglar. “It was kind of cathartic," Singleton said. "This movie was my way of kind of getting out of the ghetto as a person.”

2. SINGLETON WAS OFFERED $100,000 TO WALK AWAY.

While pitching the script to different companies, Singleton refused to give out copies unless someone was willing to make a deal where he would get to direct the film, even though he had no prior feature film directing experience. Columbia Pictures expressed interest in buying the film, and during a meeting Singleton was offered $100,000 to let a more experienced director take over the project. “I said, ‘Well, we’ll have to end this meeting right now, because I’m doing this movie. This is the movie I was born to make,'" Singleton recalled in the documentary Friendly Fire: Making of an Urban Legend. Columbia’s response was to give Singleton the green light and $6 million to make the movie.

3. IT WAS TECHNICALLY A BIGGER HIT THAN TERMINATOR 2.

In the fight for box office dollars, there was no competition between Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Boyz N the Hood in 1991. The former raked in nearly $205 million domestically, while Singleton’s film only made around $58 million. But numbers can be deceiving: Terminator 2 cost $102 million to make, or just under half of what it pulled in, while Boyz N the Hood only cost $6 million to make. According to EbonyTerminator 2 had a much wider theatrical release, but Boyz N the Hood made more money per screen.

4. THE FILM OWES A LOT TO SPIKE LEE.

Singleton was inspired and motivated by Spike Lee, though not in an entirely positive way. He says that hiring Black people to work in front of and behind the camera was one thing he took from the director, but his motivation to make films like Boyz N the Hood came after Lee—who he looked up to—didn't hire him as a production assistant on Do the Right Thing. “When they didn’t I was like ‘F*ck Spike Lee, I’ma do my own sh*t. I’ma make a West Coast movie,'" Singleton said during a panel discussion at the 2011 LA Film Fest. It was after seeing Lee’s Oscar-nominated film in theaters that Singleton began writing his own script.

5. ICE CUBE AND LAURENCE FISHBURNE WERE SHOO-INS.

Many of the film's lead actors are respected actors today with impressive resumés but, like Singleton, many of them were unknown at the time, which was by design. In Friendly Fire, Singleton said that he told casting director Jaki Brown that he “didn’t want to see anybody that you’ve seen in any other movie before.” Laurence Fishburne had had several small roles in films like The Color Purple and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, but his real break was playing a supporting character for nine episodes of Pee Wee’s Playhouse, where a 19-year-old Singleton worked as a security guard. He told Fishburne then that he would someday write a movie and have him in it.

Singleton also knew that he wanted Ice Cube to play the role of Doughboy, but he had to work for two years to convince the rapper to take the job. “I was really engulfed in my music,” Cube said in 2011, “but I had seen Ice-T do New Jack City and Kid ‘n Play do House Party, so I was like, ‘OK, it’s time for us rappers to make movies now’ ... but I hadn't read the script or memorized the lines, so I kept f*cking up. It was just terrible.”

Despite a bad audition, Singleton was in Ice Cube’s corner because he believed in the rapper’s ability (and because it worked with his vision). He told him to go read the script and to come back the next day, but warned him that he had to be good or they would find someone else. Cube realized that the movie was really “about how we grew up,” and was able to successfully tap into the character.

6. STACEY DASH WAS ALMOST TRE’S LOVE INTEREST.


The role of Brandi launched Nia Long’s career as an actress, but she wasn’t the only person to read for the part. Brent Rollins—a college friend of Singleton’s and the designer of the film’s logo—wrote about how he was there when Stacey Dash auditioned. A few years later she became well known as Dionne in the very different LA-centric film, Clueless.

Cuba Gooding Jr. said that there were other familiar faces there at the time of his audition, including Shemar Moore and the Wayans Brothers, but he did not say which roles they were reading for.

7. THE FILM INCLUDES HOMAGES TO STAND BY ME.


In an interview with Jog Road Productions, producer Steve Nicolaides revealed that Singleton wanted him to produce the film because of his previous work on one of Singleton’s favorite films, Rob Reiner's Stand By Me. Reiner picked up on Singleton’s choice to mimic a fade out effect on one of the main characters at the end of the film. “It was an homage,” Nicolaides told Reiner during the making of A Few Good Men. “I mean, the fat kid wears a striped shirt in it, too.”

Another element that the films share is the invitation to “see a dead body.” Singleton says that he hadn’t actually seen a dead body growing up.

8. THERE’S A SLIGHT DISS AIMED AT N.W.A.

By the time he was cast in the film, Ice Cube had already left the rap group N.W.A because of issues with royalties and his interest in pursuing a solo career. There was some bad blood between Cube and his former bandmates, so Singleton decided to throw in an inside joke, which he revealed in the DVD commentary. He had the rapper bring old Eazy-E shirts to the set, and in one scene a crack addict wearing one of the shirts runs by and tries to steal the character Dooky’s gold chain, but he is caught and swiftly punished.

The real Eazy-E would later tell SPIN magazine that Boyz N the Hood reminded him of a “Monday after school special with cussin’,” adding that Ice Cube was only being used to sell the film.

9. SHOOTING ON LOCATION HAD SOME OF THE CREW ON EDGE.

All of Boyz N the Hood was shot in the houses and on the streets of South Central. Even though Singleton and others in the cast and crew called the neighborhood home, filming there was a bit more unpredictable than filming on closed sets. “The set was about 10 blocks from my house,” Nia Long said. “I could have walked, except that probably wouldn’t have been the safest thing to do.” Cuba Gooding Jr. said that there were fistfights and threats everyday, and Singleton said in his commentary that after an altercation, there was a threat of gun violence by local gang members. The film crew requested that a van be parked behind them while filming so that if a drive-by did happen, they would be safe.

Singleton used the dangers of the neighborhood to ramp up tensions. In one scene, the characters are supposed to react to rapid gunfire on a crowded Crenshaw Boulevard, but Singleton did not tell them when it was coming. The only direction he gave was for Ice Cube to drive off in his 1964 Chevy Impala when he heard the shots. In his commentary, the director said that genuine reactions to the noise are what created the perfect chaos on screen, with characters running, ducking, and falling over each other.

10. EVERYONE COULD FEEL THE EMOTION IN THE SCRIPT.

In his commentary, Singleton admitted that he cried while writing Doughboy’s monologue for the end of the film, which includes the iconic line “either they don’t know, don’t show, or don’t care about what’s going on in the ‘hood.” Cube has said that the scenes where he is supposed to cry were the hardest for him because he was used to burying his feelings. Gooding was not as composed. He once punched a hole in a wall during an emotional day and the crew had him sign it. In the DVD documentary, Fishburne said that he cried while reading the script, and Long said that after filming the scene where Tre punches at the air in frustration, she left the set to cry outside.

11. THE MOST ICONIC SCENE WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT FOR MORRIS CHESTNUT.

Morris Chestnut said that his first film role is the one that he is recognized most often for, and it’s all thanks to the alley scene. Dropping your milk and scratch-offs and trying to run from a shotgun blast (in slow motion) sounds difficult enough, but Chestnut said in an interview with The Huffington Post that the technical side of the scene required more focus than the acting. “The stunt coordinator was telling me ‘Listen, when you run, make sure you keep your head up.’ Because if you put you head down, those [squibs] could explode in your face ... so I was very nervous.”

12. IT BOOSTED SALES FOR MALT LIQUOR BRANDS.

Hip hop has a long and complicated history with the alcohol and tobacco industries. Showing characters drinking 40-ounce bottles on screen, though a reflection of real life, caused sales to skyrocket. A Los Angeles-based distributor of St. Ides was forced to ration his stock following the film’s release because of increased demand.

Ice Cube was a spokesperson for the malt liquor until the brand came under pressure for controversial ad campaigns in late 1991. According to David J. Leonard in the book Icons of Hip Hop: An Encyclopedia of the Movement, Music, and Culture, Volume 2, Cube had become “increasingly uncomfortable” with promoting the beverage, and having Doughboy pour it out at the end of the film was “not just about the character paying respect to the dead but reflects Cube’s own desire to wash his hands of his relationship with Ides and the advertising industry’s exploitation of hip hop.”

13. BOYZ N THE HOOD TOOK THE CANNES FILM FESTIVAL BY STORM.

Those involved in the making of the film knew how special it was, but they were not sure how it would translate culturally (and with subtitles) to the Cannes audience, which was far removed from the streets of South Central Los Angeles. According to Nicolaides, the response was overwhelming. “Lights go down, the movie plays out, the movie’s over, lights go up ... I look up and people are hanging off the balcony trying to get John’s attention to say how great it was. The whole Mount Rushmore of Black artists and filmmakers is on their feet ... Roger Ebert is crying his eyes out. It was one of those.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that the standing ovation lasted for 20 minutes.

14. LIFE IMITATED ART IMITATING LIFE WHEN THE FILM OPENED IN THEATERS.

As was the case with New Jack City four months prior, Boyz N the Hood was met with some backlash after some incidents of violence at theaters were reported as being related to the film. In the DVD documentary, Singleton said that he left one showing just before alleged gang violence erupted (he personally witnessed a potential conflict between Crips and Bloods and tried to have security intervene), but he maintained that neither he nor the film were to blame because it was a reflection of real life.

According to a Newsweek article published that summer, around 21 theaters pulled the film after “opening-night violence left two moviegoers dead and more than 30 injured.” A story in JET magazine cited film critic Roger Ebert as saying that actor Mickey Rourke blamed “malicious directors like Spike Lee and John Singleton” for instigating the Los Angeles riots. “It wasn't the film,” Singleton told Newsweek. “It was the fact that a whole generation [of black men] doesn't respect themselves, which makes it easier for them to shoot each other. This is a generation of kids who don't have father figures. They're looking for their manhood, and they get a gun. The more of those people that get together, the higher the potential for violence.”

The director went on to call the pulling of the film from theaters “artistic racism,” adding that fights happen all the time, but “because my film has a black cast, it gets pulled—just like that.”

15. THE PRESIDENT RESPECTED THE FILM’S REALISM.

In a 1993 interview with Rolling Stone, then-President Bill Clinton was asked about comments that the attorney general had made about violence on television, and whether or not the government was granted the power by the Constitution to restrict what viewers saw. In his response, Clinton referenced Boyz N the Hood and shared his thoughts on the film:

“I do believe that the people who are making the films and the shows are just reflecting what they think the consumers want and what they think is really going on in society. I understand that. But because that is what is in fact going on in society, there's a synergy that is destructive ... There is a synergy, and I don't think we can avoid that fact. The best thing is for us to ask ourselves what can be done to break the link without muzzling the creators. For example, I watched Boyz n the Hood very carefully. While it was very violent, it had no romance about the violence. That is a movie I would've wanted a lot of elementary-age kids in the inner city to see, because there was no romance. It was a mean, ugly, sad, heartbreaking tale of basically good kids who wanted to have a decent life who had it taken away from them.”

16. IT HAS BEEN RECOGNIZED BY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS.

In 2002, Boyz N the Hood was entered into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, a program established in 1989 as a way to preserve films deemed important enough to be kept for future generations. Only 25 films are chosen each year. “I was honored ... that means that it’s one of those things that goes far beyond my life,” Singleton told BlackTree TV. Stephanie Allain, who was an executive at Columbia Pictures at the time, added that they had the opportunity to present the film to the Congressional Black Caucus. “That was very special ... to have lawmakers watching the movie, that’s the stuff of dreams. That means you’re doing something really, really well.”

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
arrow
entertainment
15 Must-See Holiday Horror Movies
Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Echo Bridge Home Entertainment

Families often use the holidays as an excuse to indulge in repeat viewings of Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Elf. But for a certain section of the population, the yuletide is all about horror. Although it didn’t truly emerge until the mid-1970s, “holiday horror” is a thriving subgenre that often combines comedy to tell stories of demented Saint Nicks and lethal gingerbread men. If you’ve never seen Santa slash someone, here are 15 movies to get you started.

1. THANKSKILLING (2009)

Most holiday horror movies concern Christmas, so ThanksKilling is a bit of an anomaly. Another reason it’s an anomaly? It opens in 1621, with an axe-wielding turkey murdering a topless pilgrim woman. The movie continues on to the present-day, where a group of college friends are terrorized by that same demon bird during Thanksgiving break. It’s pretty schlocky, but if Turkey Day-themed terror is your bag, make sure to check out the sequel: ThanksKilling 3. (No one really knows what happened to ThanksKilling 2.)

2. BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)

Fittingly, the same man who brought us A Christmas Story also brought us its twisted cousin. Before Bob Clark co-wrote and directed the 1983 saga of Ralphie Parker, he helmed Black Christmas. It concerns a group of sorority sisters who are systematically picked off by a man who keeps making threatening phone calls to their house. Oh, and it all happens during the holidays. Black Christmas is often considered the godfather of holiday horror, but it was also pretty early on the slasher scene, too. It opened the same year as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and beat Halloween by a full four years.

3. SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984)

This movie isn’t about Santa Claus himself going berserk and slaughtering a bunch of people. But it is about a troubled teen who does just that in a Santa suit. Billy Chapman starts Silent Night, Deadly Night as a happy little kid, only to witness a man dressed as St. Nick murder his parents in cold blood. Years later, after he has grown up and gotten a job at a toy store, he conducts a killing spree in his own red-and-white suit. The PTA and plenty of critics condemned the film for demonizing a kiddie icon, but it turned into a bona fide franchise with four sequels and a 2012 remake.

4. RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE (2010)

This Finnish flick dismantles Santa lore in truly bizarre fashion, and it’s not easy to explain in a quick plot summary. But Rare Exports involves a small community living at the base of Korvatunturi mountain, a major excavation project, a bunch of dead reindeer, and a creepy old naked dude who may or may not be Santa Claus. Thanks to its snowy backdrop, the movie scored some comparisons to The Thing, but the hero here isn’t some Kurt Russell clone with equally feathered hair. It’s a bunch of earnest kids and their skeptical dads, who all want to survive the holidays in one piece.

5. TO ALL A GOODNIGHT (1980)

To All a Goodnight follows a by-now familiar recipe: Add a bunch of young women to one psycho dressed as Santa Claus and you get a healthy dose of murder and this 1980 slasher flick. Only this one takes place at a finishing school. So it’s fancier.

6. KRAMPUS (2015)

Although many Americans are blissfully unaware of him, Krampus has terrorized German-speaking kids for centuries. According to folklore, he’s a yuletide demon who punishes naughty children. (He’s also part-goat.) That’s some solid horror movie material, so naturally Krampus earned his own feature film. In the movie, he’s summoned because a large suburban family loses its Christmas cheer. That family has an Austrian grandma who had encounters with Krampus as a kid, so he returns to punish her descendants. He also animates one truly awful Jack-in-the-Box.

7. THE GINGERDEAD MAN (2005)

“Eat me, you punk b*tch!” That’s one of the many corny catchphrases spouted by the Gingerdead Man, an evil cookie possessed by the spirit of a convicted killer (played by Gary Busey). The lesson here, obviously, is to never bake.

8. JACK FROST (1997)

No, this isn’t the Michael Keaton snowman movie. It’s actually a holiday horror movie that beat that family film by a year. In this version, Jack Frost is a serial killer on death row who escapes prison and then, through a freak accident, becomes a snowman. He embarks on a murder spree that’s often played for laughs—for instance, the cops threaten him with hairdryers. But the comedy is pretty questionable in the infamous, and quite controversial, Shannon Elizabeth shower scene.

9. ELVES (1989)

Based on the tagline—“They’re not working for Santa anymore”—you’d assume this is your standard evil elves movie. But Elves weaves Nazis, bathtub electrocutions, and a solitary, super grotesque elf into its utterly absurd plot. Watch at your own risk.

10. SINT (2010)

The Dutch have their own take on Santa, and his name is Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas travels to the Netherlands via steamship each year with his racist sidekick Zwarte Piet. But otherwise, he’s pretty similar to Santa. And if Santa can be evil, so can Sinterklaas. According to the backstory in Sint (or Saint), the townspeople burned their malevolent bishop alive on December 5, 1492. But Sinterklaas returns from the grave on that date whenever there’s a full moon to continue dropping bodies. In keeping with his olden origins, he rides around on a white horse wielding a golden staff … that he can use to murder you.

11. SANTA’S SLAY (2005)

Ever wonder where Santa came from? This horror-comedy claims he comes from the worst possible person: Satan. The devil’s kid lost a bet many years ago and had to pretend to be a jolly gift-giver. But now the terms of the bet are up and he’s out to act like a true demon. That includes killing Fran Drescher and James Caan, obviously.

12. ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE (2015)

Another Santa slasher is on the loose in All Through the House, but the big mystery here is who it is. This villain dons a mask during his/her streak through suburbia—and, as the genre dictates, offs a bunch of promiscuous young couples along the way. The riddle is all tied up in the disappearance of a little girl, who vanished several years earlier.

13. CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980)

Several years before Silent Night, Deadly Night garnered protests for its anti-Kringle stance, Christmas Evil put a radicalized Santa at the center of its story. The movie’s protagonist, Harry Stadling, first starts to get weird thoughts in his head as a kid when he sees “Santa” (really his dad in the costume) groping his mom. Then, he becomes unhealthily obsessed with the holiday season, deludes himself into thinking he’s Santa, and goes on a rampage. The movie is mostly notable for its superfan John Waters, who lent commentary to the DVD and gave Christmas Evil some serious cult cred.

14. SANTA CLAWS (1996)

If you thought this was the holiday version of Pet Sematary, guess again. The culprit here isn’t a demon cat in a Santa hat, but a creepy next-door neighbor. Santa Claws stars B-movie icon Debbie Rochon as Raven Quinn, an actress going through a divorce right in the middle of the holidays. She needs some help caring for her two girls, so she seeks out Wayne, her neighbor who has an obsessive crush on her. He eventually snaps and dresses up as Santa Claus in a ski mask. Mayhem ensues.

15. NEW YEAR’S EVIL (1980)

Because the holidays aren’t over until everyone’s sung “Auld Lang Syne,” we can’t count out New Year’s Eve horror. In New Year’s Evil, lady rocker Blaze is hosting a live NYE show. Everything is going well, until a man calls in promising to kill at midnight. The cops write it off as a prank call, but soon, Blaze’s friends start dropping like flies. Just to tie it all together, the mysterious murderer refers to himself as … “EVIL.”

nextArticle.image_alt|e
The American Museum of Natural History
arrow
Lists
10 Surprising Ways Senses Shape Perception
The American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History

Every bit of information we know about the world we gathered with one of our five senses. But even with perfect pitch or 20/20 vision, our perceptions don’t always reflect an accurate picture of our surroundings. Our brain is constantly filling in gaps and taking shortcuts, which can result in some pretty wild illusions.

That’s the subject of “Our Senses: An Immersive Experience,” a new exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Mental Floss recently took a tour of the sensory funhouse to learn more about how the brain and the senses interact.

1. LIGHTING REVEALS HIDDEN IMAGES.

Woman and child looking at pictures on a wall

Under normal lighting, the walls of the first room of “Our Senses” look like abstract art. But when the lights change color, hidden illustrations are revealed. The three lights—blue, red, and green—used in the room activate the three cone cells in our eyes, and each color highlights a different set of animal illustrations, giving the viewers the impression of switching between three separate rooms while standing still.

2. CERTAIN SOUNDS TAKE PRIORITY ...

We can “hear” many different sounds at once, but we can only listen to a couple at a time. The AMNH exhibit demonstrates this with an audio collage of competing recordings. Our ears automatically pick out noises we’re conditioned to react to, like an ambulance siren or a baby’s cry. Other sounds, like individual voices and musical instruments, require more effort to detect.

3. ... AS DO CERTAIN IMAGES.

When looking at a painting, most people’s eyes are drawn to the same spots. The first things we look for in an image are human faces. So after staring at an artwork for five seconds, you may be able to say how many people are in it and what they look like, but would likely come up short when asked to list the inanimate object in the scene.

4. PAST IMAGES AFFECT PRESENT PERCEPTION.

Our senses often are more suggestible than we would like. Check out the video above. After seeing the first sequence of animal drawings, do you see a rat or a man’s face in the last image? The answer is likely a rat. Now watch the next round—after being shown pictures of faces, you might see a man’s face instead even though the final image hasn’t changed.

5. COLOR INFLUENCES TASTE ...

Every cooking show you’ve watched is right—presentation really is important. One look at something can dictate your expectations for how it should taste. Researchers have found that we perceive red food and drinks to taste sweeter and green food and drinks to taste less sweet regardless of chemical composition. Even the color of the cup we drink from can influence our perception of taste.

6. ... AND SO DOES SOUND

Sight isn’t the only sense that plays a part in how we taste. According to one study, listening to crunching noises while snacking on chips makes them taste fresher. Remember that trick before tossing out a bag of stale junk food.

7. BEING HYPER-FOCUSED HAS DRAWBACKS.

Have you ever been so focused on something that the world around you seemed to disappear? If you can’t recall the feeling, watch the video above. The instructions say to keep track of every time a ball is passed. If you’re totally absorbed, you may not notice anything peculiar, but watch it a second time without paying attention to anything in particular and you’ll see a person in a gorilla suit walk into the middle of the screen. The phenomenon that allows us to tune out big details like this is called selective attention. If you devote all your mental energy to one task, your brain puts up blinders that block out irrelevant information without you realizing it.

8. THINGS GET WEIRD WHEN SENSES CONTRADICT EACH OTHER.

Girl standing in optical illusion room.

The most mind-bending room in the "Our Senses" exhibit is practically empty. The illusion comes from the black grid pattern painted onto the white wall in such a way that straight planes appear to curve. The shapes tell our eyes we’re walking on uneven ground while our inner ear tells us the floor is stable. It’s like getting seasick in reverse: This conflicting sensory information can make us feel dizzy and even nauseous.

9. WE SEE SHADOWS THAT AREN’T THERE.

If our brains didn’t know how to adjust for lighting, we’d see every shadow as part of the object it falls on. But we can recognize that the half of a street that’s covered in shade isn’t actually darker in color than the half that sits in the sun. It’s a pretty useful adaptation—except when it’s hijacked for optical illusions. Look at the image above: The squares marked A and B are actually the same shade of gray. Because the pillar appears to cast a shadow over square B, our brain assumes it’s really lighter in color than what we’re shown.

10. WE SEE FACES EVERYWHERE.

The human brain is really good at recognizing human faces—so good it can make us see things that aren’t there. This is apparent in the Einstein hollow head illusion. When looking at the mold of Albert Einstein’s face straight on, the features appear to pop out rather than sink in. Our brain knows we’re looking at something similar to a human face, and it knows what human faces are shaped like, so it automatically corrects the image that it’s given.

All images courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History unless otherwise noted.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios