Ricky Jay, veteran magician and actor, passed away of natural causes on Saturday in Los Angeles. He was 72.
“He was one of a kind,” his manager Winston Simone told Variety. “We will never see the likes of him again.”
Born Richard Jay Potash to a middle-class Jewish family in Brooklyn, Jay began his career as a magician, whose rare skills in the field eventually brought him to Hollywood, where he served as a consultant and attracted an extraordinary following.
One of his biggest fans was legendary playwright and filmmaker David Mamet, who not only cast Jay in several of his movies, including The Spanish Prisoner and State and Main, but also directed three of Jay’s one-man shows.
Other performances included notable roles in Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Deadwood, Tomorrow Never Dies, and, naturally, both magician movies — The Illusionist and The Prestige — from the mid-aughts.
In addition to performing, Jay co-founded Deceptive Practices in the early ’90s, which provided “Arcane Knowledge on a Need-to-Know Basis” to film, television, and stage productions. For instance, they designed the wheelchair that hid Gary Sinise’s legs in Forrest Gump and created a self-drinking glass for the talking gorilla in Congo.
In 2012, his life was the subject of the documentary, Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay.