Ricky Jay, a master magician who also acted in films and TV shows such as “Boogie Nights,” “House of Games” and “Deadwood,” died Saturday in Los Angeles. He was 72.
Jay’s manager, Winston Simone, said he died of natural causes, adding, “He was one of a kind. We will never see the likes of him again.”
His attorney Stan Coleman confirmed his death. His partner in the Deceptive Practices company, Michael Weber, tweeted, “I am sorry to share that my remarkable friend, teacher, collaborator and co-conspirator is gone.”
A New Yorker profile called him “the most gifted sleight of hand artist alive,” and Jay was also known for his card tricks and memory feats.
He appeared in several David Mamet movies, including “House of Games,” “The Spanish Prisoner,” “Things Change,” “Redbelt” and “State and Main.”
Steve Martin, with whom he appeared in “The Spanish Prisoner,” described Jay in the New Yorker profile, “I sort of think of Ricky as the intellectual élite of magicians. He’s expertly able to perform and yet he knows the theory, history, literature of the field.”
In “Deadwood,” he played card sharp Eddie Sawyer during the first season, and also wrote for the show.
In the 1997 James Bond film “Tomorrow Never Dies,” Jay played a cyber-terrorist to Pierce Brosnan’s Bond.
He also provided the narration for movies such as Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Magnolia.” His one-man Broadway show directed by Mamet, “Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants,” was recorded for an HBO special in 1996.
With Weber, he created the Deceptive Practices company, which provided solutions to movies and TV productions such as the wheelchair that hid Gary Sinise’s legs in “Forrest Gump.” They also worked on films including “The Prestige,” “The Illusionist” and “Oceans Thirteen.”
Jay, who was born Richard Jay Potash in Brooklyn, was introduced to magic by his grandfather. He began performing in New York, opening for rock bands. Jay first worked in film with on Caleb Deschanel’s “The Escape Artist.”
A documentary about his life, “Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay,” was released in 2012.
A student of all facets of magic, prestidigitation and trickery, he maintained a large library of historic works and wrote two books, as well as numerous articles for the New Yorker; he also frequently lectured at museums and universities.