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Production Designer J. Michael Riva Died After a Stroke UPDATE

by Anne Thompson
June 8, 2012 11:12 AM
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"The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai"
"The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai"

J. Michael Riva had great legs. "I come by them honestly," he would say to admirers. That's because the respected Hollywood production designer, who worked with everyone from Steven Spielberg (he was Oscar-nominated for "The Color Purple") and Rob Reiner ("A Few Good Men") to Marc Webb ("The Amazing Spider-Man"), Jon Favreau ("Zathura" and the first two "Iron Man" films) and Quentin Tarantino ("Django Unchained") was the New York-born son of Maria Riva and the grandson of Marlene Dietrich.

UPDATE: He died Thursday after complications from a stroke at a New Orleans hospital at age 63.

Riva designed the 2002 Oscar show, and collected a a 2007 Emmy for the 79th Academy Awards. He also designed the Opening Ceremonies of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

When I got to know Riva in the early 80s, he was madly in love with Jamie Lee Curtis, and was designing Rick Richter's "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai." He was handsome and charming, hugely creative and loved his work. I adored him. He left us far too young.

I feel for Riva's family, friends and colleagues as well as for Tarantino, who is still shooting "Django";  in 2010 he lost his long-time editor, Sally Menke, who expired at age 56 after collapsing during a hike in the Hollywood Hills during an extreme heat wave.

5D Conference : Bigger Bang Pt 4 - J. Michael Riva from Dave Blass on Vimeo.

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More: Obit, Django Unchained


  • Tracy Tyna | June 12, 2012 3:37 PMReply

    He was a lovely man. I worked with him on Strangers Kiss. He was witty, smart and talented. He will be missed.

  • Joe Beatty | June 8, 2012 6:14 PMReply

    Several years ago, I took a course on production design taught by Michael Riva, and I have very fond memories of him. He had a deep love of film, and the art of production design. Moreover, he was a very nice man. My condolences to his family.

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