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Overview for J. Michael Riva
J. Michael Riva

J. Michael Riva


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Also Known As: John Michael Riva,Michael Riva,Mike Riva Died:
Born: June 28, 1948 Cause of Death: Stroke
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA Profession: Production Designer ... production designer art director 2nd unit director producer director writer


It was inevitable that J Michael Riva would end up in show business. The grandson of actress Marlene Dietrich and film editor Rudolph Sieber and the son of actress-author Maria Riva and art director William Riva, he was raised in NYC where he observed his famous relatives at work in theater, film and TV. After a European education, Riva returned to the USA and enrolled at UCLA. Dropping out to pursue a career in production design, he apprenticed with Jackson DeGoiva in the 1970s. By mid-decade, Riva had risen from assistant to art director on the silly sequel "Ilse, Harem Keeper of the Oil Shieks" (1975). He worked with Toby Rafelson on the tasteful production design for "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden" (1977). Through this association, he was hired to design the prison setting for "Brubaker" (1980), starring Robert Redford. Redford, in turn, tapped Riva to create the tony, emotionally sterile world of "Ordinary People" (also 1980).

Oliver Stone hired Riva to create the world depicted in his schlocky horror film "The Hand" (1981). He fared better creating the quirky, subterranean world of "The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai: Across the 8th Dimension" (1984), the nightclubs and baseball fields of Hal Ashby's "The Slugger's Wife" (1985) and the dual suburban and cavernous worlds of Richard Donner's "The Goonies" (also 1985). For Steven Spielberg's "The Color Purple" (1985), Riva created the detailed Southern period settings that spanned forty-years and shared in an Oscar nomination for Best Art Direction-Set Design. Subsequently, he designed the contemporary Los Angeles of Donner's "Lethal Weapon" (1987) and its first sequel "Lethal Weapon 2" (1989) as well as the past, present and future world inhabited by a NYC TV executive (Bill Murray) in "Scrooged" (1988), a contemporary version of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol". Riva has collaborated with Rob Reiner on the military courtroom drama "A Few Good Men" (1992) and "North" (1994). For Ivan Reitman's "Dave" (1993), he recreated the Oval Office and other rooms within the White House while "Congo" (1995) required not only a jungle setting but also a legendary lost city. More recently, Riva created the design for "Hard Rain", "Six Days/Seven Nights" and "Lethal Weapon 4" (all 1998).

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