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Date TimeNovember 24, 2018
Voice In addition to his long career as a magician, he also appeared in films such as 'Magnolia' (1999) as the narrator, 'Tomorrow Never Dies' (1997) as a cyber terrorist and 'Boogie Nights' (1997).
Ricky Jay, one of the most compelling figures in magic, died Saturday in Los Angeles of natural causes, The Hollywood Reporter can confirm.
Ricky Jay, Magician and Boogie Nights Actor, Dies at 72
His manager, Winston Simone, said of Jay, "He was one of a kind. We will never see the likes of him again."
In addition to his long career as a magician, he also appeared in films such as Magnolia (1999) as the narrator, Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) as a cyber terrorist and Boogie Nights (1997), among others, and several times appeared in David Mamet's films, including: House of Games, Homicide, Things Change, Spanish Prisoner, State and Main, and Heist. He had various roles on television as well, including on The X-Files and Deadwood.
In a 1993 profile of Jay in The New Yorker, fellow magician and actor Steve Martin was quoted as saying of Jay, "I sort of think of Ricky as the intellectual élite of magicians. I’ve had experience with magicians my whole life. He’s expertly able to perform and yet he knows the theory, history, literature of the field. Ricky’s a master of his craft. You know how there are those teachers of creative writing who can’t necessarily write but can teach? Well, Ricky can actually do everything."
Jay provided consulting for several films as well. Some of his consulting work includes work on the films Ocean's Thirteen, The Prestige and The Illusionist. Jay's partner in their Deceptive Practices consulting firm, Michael Weber, was one of the first to share the news of Jay's passing. He tweeted, "I am sorry to share that my remarkable friend, teacher, collaborator and co-conspirator is gone."
He also provided consulting on Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation. Director Christopher McQuarrie attributed the success of the film's opera sequence to Jay, saying on Saturday, "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."
Fellow magician and actor Neil Patrick Harris also shared his condolences on Saturday, writing, "Master magician and historian Ricky Jay has passed away. The breadth of his knowledge and appreciation for magic and the allied arts was truly remarkable. Such sad news, such a profound loss."
In addition to acting, Jay wrote and hosted his own television specials for the likes of CBS, HBO, and the BBC, and he also served as host and narrator of the first documentary mini-series on conjuring, The Story of Magic, for the A&E network. He was also a prolific speaker and writer on subjects such as "conjuring literature, con games, sense perception and unusual entertainments," according to his website.
By his own account, he first performed magic at the age of 4. In an interview with The New Yorker, he said of his beginnings in the magical arts, "It was a natural assimilation. I mean, I never talk much about my family, but my grandfather was friendly with these guys, with magicians and ventriloquists on the highest levels, and I was just … interested. First I was drawn to the idea of learning how to do magic, but quickly wound up making that transition to learning about it."
Jay and his love of magic was also the subject of a 2012 film, Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay. The Hollywood Reporter's review said of the film, "[It's] a documentary drunk on the infinite pleasures of playing-card trickery and smitten with the artists who've passed secrets down through the generations. The film will please Jay's many fans and holds special appeal on video, where viewers will be compelled to watch tricks repeatedly in slow-motion, trying (likely in vain) to figure them out."
Producer Frank Marshall and writer and producer Brian Koppelman were some of the notable Hollywood figures who took to Twitter to pay their respects. In a series of tweets, Koppelman said, "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."

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