Family & Companions
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).
Director (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Art Director (Feature Film)
Production Designer (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Production Designer (Special)
First film credit, as art director on "Ilse, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks"
First film credit as production designer, "Bare Knuckles"
Served as art director on Robert Redford's "Ordinary People"
Was production designer on Oliver Stone's first feature "The Hand"
First TV-movie credit, as production designer on "Callie & Son" (CBS)
First screen collaboration with Richrd Donner, "The Goonies"
Worked with Steven Spielberg on "The Color Purple"; earned Oscar nomination for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration
Made TV directorial debut with "Amazing Stories" episode "The Eternal Mind" (NBC)
Was production designer on Richard Donner's "Lethal Weapon"
Reteamed with Donner for the sequel "Lethal Weapon 2"
Was production designer on Rob Reiner's "A Few Good Men"
Worked again with Reiner on "North"
TV-movie producing debut, "Lily in Winter" (USA Network), also received story credit; garnered Writers Guild of America nomination
Served as production designer on "Congo"
Worked on high profile features "Hard Rain", "Six Days, Seven Nights," and "Lethal Weapon IV" as production designer
Credited as visual consultant on "Romeo Must Die"
Served as production designer of "Charlie's Angels"
Was the production designer for the telecast of the Academy Awards
Re-teamed with director McG for the sequel "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle"
Worked with Sam Raimi as production designer on "Spider-Man 3"
Was production designer on the blockbuster "Iron Man" (2008) and its 2010 sequel
Completed work on "The Amazing Spider-Man"; was in the middle of production for Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" at time of death