J. Michael Riva

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J. Michael Riva
Born John Michael Riva
(1948-06-28)June 28, 1948
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Died June 7, 2012(2012-06-07) (aged 63)
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
Cause of death Stroke
Nationality American
Other names Michael Riva
Mike Riva
John Riva
John M. Riva
J.M. Riva
Occupation Production designer
Years active 1975–2012
Spouse(s) Wendy Riva
(19??–2012; his death)
Children 4 Sons
Parent(s) William Riva,
Maria Elisabeth Riva, née Sieber
Family Marlene Dietrich
Awards Primetime Emmy Award

J. Michael Riva (June 28, 1948 – June 7, 2012) was an American production designer.

Early and personal life[edit]

John Michael Riva was born in Manhattan, to William Riva, a Broadway set designer, and Maria Elisabeth Sieber, a German-born actress and the daughter of Marlene Dietrich. Riva had three brothers (John Peter, John Paul and John David). Riva attended the prep school Institute Le Rosey in Switzerland for 6 years before attending UCLA.[1] He and his wife Wendy Riva had two sons Daniel and Adam. He had a son by a previous marriage, John Michael (Mikey) Riva Jr. and an adopted son Jean-Paul Riva from his first marriage.[1]


Riva had a long and prestigious career as an art director and production designer on numerous films, including the 1985 film The Color Purple, for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Art Direction.[1] Other credits include The Goonies (1985), Lethal Weapon (1987), A Few Good Men (1992), Spider-Man 3 (2007), Iron Man (2008) and Iron Man 2 (2010).[1][2]

His final films, The Amazing Spider-Man and Django Unchained, were released posthumously. He was the production designer for the opening ceremony of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, as well as for the 74th and 79th Academy Awards in 2002 and 2007, respectively. He won a Primetime Emmy Award for his work on the latter.[1]


Riva suffered a stroke on June 1, 2012, in New Orleans, Louisiana, during production of Django Unchained. He died in a hospital there on June 7, 2012, at age 63.[1] Django director Quentin Tarantino commented, "Michael became a dear friend on this picture, as well as a magnificent, talented colleague. Every member of our 'Django' crew family is devastated by this tragic loss as we persevere on his wonderful sets."[1]



All as production designer unless stated otherwise
Year Title Notes
1976 Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks Art director; credited as Mike Riva
1977 Bad Georgia Road Art director; credited as Michael Riva
1977 I Never Promised You a Rose Garden Uncredited
1977 Bare Knuckles Credited as Michael Riva
1979 Fast Charlie... the Moonbeam Rider Art director; credited as Michael Riva
1980 Brubaker Also art director
1980 Ordinary People Art director
1981 The Hand
1981 Halloween II Credited as Michael Riva
1983 Bad Boys
1983 Strangers Kiss Visual consultant; credited as Michael Riva
1984 The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension
1985 The Slugger's Wife Credited as Michael Riva
1985 The Goonies
1985 The Color Purple
1986 The Golden Child
1987 Lethal Weapon
1988 Scrooged
1989 Lethal Weapon 2
1989 Tango & Cash
1992 Radio Flyer
1992 A Few Good Men
1993 Dave
1994 North
1995 Congo
1998 Hard Rain
1998 Six Days Seven Nights
1998 Lethal Weapon 4
1999 House on Haunted Hill Visual consultant
2000 Romeo Must Die Visual consultant
2000 Charlie's Angels
2001 Evolution
2003 Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle
2005 Stealth
2005 Zathura
2006 The Pursuit of Happyness
2007 Spider-Man 3 (with Neil Spisak)
2008 Iron Man
2008 Seven Pounds
2010 Iron Man 2
2012 The Amazing Spider-Man Posthumously released
2012 Django Unchained Posthumously released


All as production designer unless stated otherwise
Year Title Notes
1981 Callie & Son TV film
1986 Amazing Stories Director; episode 2.12: "The Eternal Mind"; credited as Michael Riva
1990 Tales from the Crypt Director; episode 2.18: "The Secret"; credited as Michael Riva
1994 Lily in Winter Story; TV film
1996 1996 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony TV special
1999 Tuesdays with Morrie TV film
2002 The 74th Annual Academy Awards TV special
2007 The 79th Annual Academy Awards TV special


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Dickey, Josh L.; Sneider, Jeff (2012-06-07). "'Django' prod'n designer Riva dies at 63". Variety. Retrieved 2012-06-08. 
  2. ^ Reynolds, Simon (2012-06-08). "'Django Unchained' production designer J Michael Riva dies, aged 63". Digital Spy. Retrieved 2012-06-08. 


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