Magician, actor, and writer Ricky Jay has died at age 72. According to CNN, Jay passed away on Saturday from natural causes at his home in Los Angeles. His death was confirmed by longtime manager Winston Simone.
Jay was widely regarded as among the most skilled magicians of his, or any, generation. In a 1993 New Yorker profile of Jay, fellow magician and mathematician Persi Diaconis described him as, “simply put, one of the half-dozen best card handlers in the world. Not maybe; everybody thinks so.”
Jay’s acting credits included director David Mamet’s 1987 thriller House of Games, Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1997 film Boogie Nights, and the HBO TV show Deadwood. Mamet also directed Jay’s 1994 Broadway show, Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants.
Jay’s books included 1986’s Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women and 2011’s Celebrations of Curious Characters.
Magician Penn Jillette and actor Neil Patrick Harris have both paid tribute to Jay.
“Oh man, Ricky Jay,” Jillette wrote on Twitter. “Just a genius. One of the best who ever lived. We’ll all miss you, Ricky. Oh man.”
“Master magician and historian Ricky Jay has passed away,” wrote Harris. “The breadth of his knowledge and appreciation for magic and the allied arts was truly remarkable. Such sad news, such a profound loss.”