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Production Designer J. Michael Riva Died After a Stroke UPDATE

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood June 8, 2012 at 11:12AM

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.
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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.

This article is related to: Obit, Django Unchained


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.