Production designer J. Michael Riva suffered a severe stroke and passed away on June 7.
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On Friday, June 1, 2012, while on location in New Orleans, production designer J. Michael Riva was preparing to head to the studio when he suffered a severe stroke. He passed away on June 7, surrounded by his family.
Riva was a beloved and respected member of the film community who found great joy in making movies. He was an adoring father to his four sons, Jean-Paul, Mikey, Daniel, and Adam; and a devoted husband to his wife Wendy. He was the eldest grandson of Marlene Dietrich and film editor Rudolph Sieber. He is also survived by his mother Maria Sieber Riva and brothers Peter, David and Paul Riva.
Riva was an Academy Award nominee for his work on Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple. His credits include A Few Good Men, Dave, Ordinary People, Brubaker, and the cult favorite, Buckaroo Banzai.
For longtime friend and collaborator Dick Donner, Riva designed the first three films in the Lethal Weapon series, as well as the immensely popular Dick Donner/Steven Spielberg classic, The Goonies. In recent years, he designed Charlie’s Angels 1 and 2, The Pursuit Of Happyness, and 7 Pounds, with Will Smith, as well as the incredibly successful Iron Man 1 and 2.
He completed work on The Amazing Spider-Man, directed by Marc Webb and had been working on Django Unchained for director Quentin Tarantino.
A few of the directors Riva worked with include Robert Redford, Rob Reiner, Sam Raimi, Steven Spielberg, Bob Rafelson, Frank Marshall, Gabriele Muccino, Oliver Stone, Ivan Reitman, Jon Favreau and Hal Ashby. Dick Donner was both a friend and frequent collaborator.
Among his television credits is the Emmy Award-winning telefilm Tuesdays with Morrie and the 74th Academy Awards, for which he received an Emmy nomination. A few years later he won the Emmy for his design work on the 79th Academy Awards.
He was a Writers Guild of America nominated writer for his original screenplay, Lily in Winter, produced for Showtime.
Michael Riva was a great friend and a tremendous talent, able to tailor the look and mood of a story to the emotion in the script. We are stunned and saddened by his passing. Amy Pascal, Co-Chairman Sony Pictures Entertainment
Amy and I worked with Michael Riva many times over the years, most recently on The Amazing Spider-Man. He will be deeply missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, his friends, and his family. Michael Lynton, Chairman & CEO Sony Pictures Entertainment
J. Michael Riva was an amazing talent and we were lucky to have him work on "Django Unchained." His creativity enhanced every frame of the film. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. Harvey Weinstein The Weinstein Company
We are devastated by the loss of our friend and colleague. His exceptional talent was exceeded only by his kindness and his love of life and his family. Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin, Pilar Savone Producers, Django Unchained
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. Quentin Tarantino, Director Django Unchained
Michael Riva was a wonderful collaborator, brilliant designer, an emphatic perfectionist—but most of all he was a great friend. He was a gift from the universe and I will miss him like crazy. Marc Webb, Director The Amazing Spider-Man
The industry has lost an incredible talent and the studio and I have lost a true friend. We worked together frequently over the years and as an artist and filmmaker, Michael was in a league all his own. He was truly one of the most extraordinary and gifted production designers I have ever seen and his passing is a terrible loss to the creative community. Gary Martin, President Production Administration, Sony Pictures