Ricky Jay, a singularly skilled magician whose acting career included roles in “Deadwood” and “Boogie Nights,” died in Los Angeles yesterday. He was 72. The news was confirmed by Jay’s manager, Winston Simone, who said that he died of natural causes and “was one of a kind. We will never see the likes of him again.”
“I am sorry to share that my remarkable friend, teacher, collaborator and co-conspirator is gone,” tweeted Michael Weber, Jay’s partner in the Deceptive Practices Company.
Jay was the subject of a 2012 documentary, “Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay,” directed by Molly Bernstein. It explored his revered career as a magician, as did a 1993 New Yorker profile that referred to Jay as “perhaps the most gifted sleight of hand artist alive.” Those talents also brought him work as a behind-the-scenes consultant on movies like “The Prestige,” “The Illusionist,” and “Ocean’s Thirteen.”
“Boogie Nights” wasn’t Jay’s only collaboration with Paul Thomas Anderson, as he also had a role in “Magnolia”; his most frequent collaborator was David Mamet, however, as he appeared in “House of Games,” “The Spanish Prisoner,” “State and Main,” “Redbelt,” and “Things Change.”
Born Richard Jay Potash on June 26, 1946 in Brooklyn, Jay was the first and only magician profiled on PBS’ “American Masters.” He also wrote and lectured on magic extensively throughout his life, touring colleges and authoring several books. His final onscreen appearance was in 2015’s “The Automatic Hate.”
Tributes have been pouring in:
I was blessed to have the legendary Ricky Jay as a consultant on Rogue Nation. An off-handed comment he made inspired the climax of the opera sequence. It’s safe to say it would not be the same scene without him.
He was the greatest of a vanishing breed.
— Christopher McQuarrie (@chrismcquarrie) November 25, 2018
Ricky Jay was a hero of mine. And when I met him, got to know him, work with him twice, his kindness, professionalism, sense of humor, brilliance, made him even more of a hero. He was one of the greatest entertainers of our lifetime. And a true genius. #RipRickyJay https://t.co/U3R5uprXG5
— Brian Koppelman (@briankoppelman) November 25, 2018
Rest In Peace, Ricky Jay. You were an unsurpassed artist and an exceptionally kind soul. I will miss you, xo, your pal, Louis.
— Julia Louis-Dreyfus (@OfficialJLD) November 25, 2018
R.I.P. my dear friend Ricky Jay. The world has truly lost a little of its magic today.
— Joe Mantegna (@JoeMantegna) November 25, 2018
Just learned we lost Ricky Jay today, my friend and neighbor for 30 years. A irreplaceable world of arcane history, theatrical passion, and his particular, singular performing genius passes with him. RIP buddy. #rickyjay
— Mark Frost (@mfrost11) November 25, 2018
My favorite Ricky Jay story, from Paul Thomas Anderson’s WTF interview, about Jay cracking up while filming Boogie Nights whenever Burt Reynolds said “nevertheless.” pic.twitter.com/hhIMY3pg0B
— Tony Tost (@tonytost) November 25, 2018