×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Django’ prod’n designer Riva dies at 63

Credits include 'The Color Purple,' 'A Few Good Men'

J. Michael Riva, the prolific production designer whose credits spanned four decades of both commercial hits and prestige films including “A Few Good Men,” “The Amazing Spider-Man,” and, most recently, Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained,” has died. He was 63.

Riva suffered a stroke June 1 while preparing to go to work on the New Orleans-area “Django” set. He passed away in a hospital Thursday, surrounded by family.

“Michael became a dear friend on this picture, as well as a magnificent, talented colleague,” Tarantino said. “Every member of our ‘Django’ crew family is devastated by this tragic loss as we persevere on his wonderful sets.”

Riva was nominated for an Oscar in 1985 for his work on “The Color Purple,” and later won an Emmy in 2007 for “The 79th Annual Academy Awards.” That was actually his second for the kudocast; his credits include the 2002 show, as well as the Opening Ceremonies of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

The native New Yorker hailed from a showbiz family: Marlene Dietrich was his grandmother; his father, William Riva, was a Broadway set designer; and his mother, Maria Riva, appeared in “The Scarlet Empress” with Dietrich, playing Catherine the Great as a child.

Riva’s roughly 40 film production design credits date back to 1977, but it was 1985 when his career found another gear — that year he worked on both cult hit “The Goonies” and kudo magnet “The Color Purple,” for which he was Oscar-nominated. He stayed busy — and very much in demand — through the decades, most recently with Quentin Tarantino’s hotly anticipated Western, Sony’s “Spider-Man” reboot and both of Marvel’s “Iron Man” films. He was also a stalwart of the “Lethal Weapon” franchise, and worked on the third installment of Sony’s first “Spider-Man” trilogy.

“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,” said Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chair Amy Pascal. “We are stunned and saddened by his passing.”

He is survived by his wife Wendy; four sons, Jean-Paul, Mikey, Daniel & Adam; and his mother Maria Sieber Riva and brothers Peter, David and Paul Riva. They have returned to Los Angeles, where a service is pending. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that contributions be made to the orgs H.O.P.E Haiti and South Central Los Angeles youth center A Place Called Home.

More Scene

  • Robert De Niro

    Robert De Niro Slams Trump Administration on Tribeca Opening Night

    The 18th annual Tribeca Film Festival opened with Roger Ross Williams’ documentary “The Apollo” at the iconic uptown venue which performers and Harlem community members call “home.” “You can feel the history, the echo of the entertainers,” Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Robert De Niro said in a speech before the film. “In this administration, during [...]

  • Lilli Cooper Tootsie

    How the 'Tootsie' Musical Was Updated for the #MeToo Era

    Turning the beloved 1982 comedy “Tootsie” into a 21st century musical already seemed like a challenge when work on the adaptation began back in 2016. Then the #MeToo movement revved up — and the writers knew they couldn’t tell Dorothy’s story for a modern audience without it. “It’s different than it was when the movie [...]

  • Ralph Fiennes attends a special screening

    Ralph Fiennes on Directing Rudolf Nureyev Biopic: 'It's Been a Very, Very Long Road'

    Ralph Fiennes celebrated his latest directorial outing, “The White Crow,” on Monday night in New York City. The Sony Pictures Classics film tells the story of legendary dancer Rudolf Nureyev. “It’s been a very, very long road. We were mad. We were mad to take on this subject of Rudolf Nureyev. Mad. Completely mad,” Fiennes [...]

  • Taylor Swift Time 100 Performance

    Watch Taylor Swift's Time 100 Gala Performance and Speech

    Just two nights out from Taylor Swift D-day spring 2019 — i.e., Thursday’s release of a new single — Swift made an appearance Tuesday at the Time 100 event in New York, where she did not let loose with any spoiler performances of new music but did sing a few fan favorites, including “Style,” “Delicate,” and [...]

  • Katie HolmesAT&T Presents: Untold Stories Luncheon

    Katie Holmes, Kal Penn Help Decide Winner of $1 Million Filmmaker Grant

    Tribeca Film Festival and AT&T gave one young filmmaker a million and one reasons to rejoice at the “Untold Stories” third annual competition. After a nerve-wracking 10-minute long pitch in front of over 850,000 live stream audience members and a panel consisting of celebrities and industry leaders, filmmaker Kate Tsang was awarded $1 million Monday [...]

  • Laurie Metcalf, John Lithgow'Hillary and Clinton'

    Why John Lithgow Worried About Starring in Broadway's 'Hillary and Clinton'

    When Lucas Hnath first conceived of “Hillary and Clinton” in 2008, he was writing for and about a very different America. Now, a total reimagining of the show has made its way to Broadway with Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow in the titular roles. At the opening on Thursday night, the cast and creatives talked [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content