J. Michael Riva had great legs. “I come by them honestly,” he would say to admirers. That’s because the respected Hollywood production designer, who worked with everyone from Steven Spielberg (he was Oscar-nominated for “The Color Purple”) and Rob Reiner (“A Few Good Men”) to Marc Webb (“The Amazing Spider-Man”), Jon Favreau (“Zathura” and the first two “Iron Man” films) and Quentin Tarantino (“Django Unchained”) was the New York-born son of Maria Riva and the grandson of Marlene Dietrich.
UPDATE: He died Thursday after complications from a stroke at a New Orleans hospital at age 63.
Riva designed the 2002 Oscar show, and collected a a 2007 Emmy for the 79th Academy Awards. He also designed the Opening Ceremonies of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
When I got to know Riva in the early 80s, he was madly in love with Jamie Lee Curtis, and was designing Rick Richter’s “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai.” He was handsome and charming, hugely creative and loved his work. I adored him. He left us far too young.
I feel for Riva’s family, friends and colleagues as well as for Tarantino, who is still shooting “Django”; in 2010 he lost his long-time editor, Sally Menke, who expired at age 56 after collapsing during a hike in the Hollywood Hills during an extreme heat wave.