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Ricky Jay

Ricky Jay

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Also Known As: Ricki Jay, Richard Jay Potash Died:
Born: Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Brooklyn, New York, USA Profession: magician, actor, writer, singer, side-show barker, producer, encyclopedia salesman, accountant (on Wall Street)

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Described by David Mamet as "one of the world's great people", Ricky Jay is an actor who definitely should not give up his day job. Long considered one of the world's best sleight-of-hand artists, he began honing his skills at the age of four when his grandfather first introduced him to card tricks. Over the years, he has worked as a side-show barker and a carnival magician, as well as an opening act for numerous performers, including Tina Turner, Emmylou Harris and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, but it his film roles for directors Mamet and Paul Thomas Anderson that have brought his bearded features and ample frame mainstream international recognition. Jay has further distinguished himself as an author, humorist and historian and, when not performing, continues to expand his encyclopedic knowledge of history's weirdest incidents, collected quarterly in Jay's Journal of Anomalies (published in book form in 2001). He has also hosted the TV specials "Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women" (CBS, 1992, based on his 1986 book) and "The Story of Magic" (A&E, 1997), not to mention appearing on "The Virtual Ed Sullivan Show" (UPN, 1998).After meeting Mamet and lecturing to his acting classes, Jay served as an...

Described by David Mamet as "one of the world's great people", Ricky Jay is an actor who definitely should not give up his day job. Long considered one of the world's best sleight-of-hand artists, he began honing his skills at the age of four when his grandfather first introduced him to card tricks. Over the years, he has worked as a side-show barker and a carnival magician, as well as an opening act for numerous performers, including Tina Turner, Emmylou Harris and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, but it his film roles for directors Mamet and Paul Thomas Anderson that have brought his bearded features and ample frame mainstream international recognition. Jay has further distinguished himself as an author, humorist and historian and, when not performing, continues to expand his encyclopedic knowledge of history's weirdest incidents, collected quarterly in Jay's Journal of Anomalies (published in book form in 2001). He has also hosted the TV specials "Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women" (CBS, 1992, based on his 1986 book) and "The Story of Magic" (A&E, 1997), not to mention appearing on "The Virtual Ed Sullivan Show" (UPN, 1998).

After meeting Mamet and lecturing to his acting classes, Jay served as an advisor on Mamet's play "The Shawl" (1985) and has acted in four of the writer-director's features, perhaps most memorably as the sleazy Las Vegas card player-con man in "House of Games" (1987), on which he also served as a consultant. Jay has additionally consulted or advised on movies like "The Escape Artist" (1982), "Sneakers" and "Leap of Faith" (both 1992) and even designed the illusion wheelchair for Gary Sinise's character in "Forrest Gump" (1994). His interest in "close-up" magic led him to write and produce the solo stage show "Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants", an intimate look at cardsharping which Mamet directed to great acclaim off-Broadway in 1994. (The show was filmed for HBO in 1996 and Jay and Mamet took it to London's West End in 1999). After a turn as a computer expert in "Tomorrow Never Dies", he played the seen-it-all porn cameraman in Anderson's "Boogie Nights" (both 1997), then rejoined the director for "Magnolia" (1999), narrating the opening sequences and then later appearing as a TV producer.

Jay went to work again for Mamet in back-to-back films: "State and Main" (2000), an ensemble comedy about a Hollywood production taking over a small New England town after getting run out of their previous location, and "Heist" (2001), a crime thriller about the leader (Gene Hackman) of a band of thieves whose face is exposed during a job, forcing him to do one last gig before disappearing. After a brief role as an auctioneer in "Heartbreakers" (2001), a lackluster comedy about a mother and daughter con artist team (Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt), Jay showed up as a detective in Gus Van Sant's "Last Days" (2005), a fictional story about an artist (Michael Pitt) succumbing to the pressures and isolation of celebrity, based on troubled rock star Kurt Cobain's decline and fall.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

2.
3.
 Redbelt (2008)
5.
 Prestige, The (2006)
6.
 Last Days (2005) Cast
7.
8.
 Heartbreakers (2001) Dawson'S Auctioneer
9.
 Heist (2001) Don 'Pinky' Pincus
10.
 State and Main (2000) Jack Taylor
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Introduced to card tricks by his grandfather at the age of four
1981:
Acted in CBS variety special, "Like Magic"
1982:
Served as technical advisor for "The Escape Artist"
1982:
Cast as Philostrate in the NY Shakespeare Festival production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in Central Park
1985:
After meeting playwright David Mamet and lecturing to his acting class, served as an advisor on Mamet's play "The Shawl"
1985:
Served as curator of the Mulholland Library of Conjuring and Allied Arts in Century City, California
1987:
Feature acting debut as a sleazy Las Vegas con man in Mamet's feature directorial debut, "House of Games"; also served as a consultant for confidence games
1988:
Reteamed with Mamet for a role in "Things Change"
1990:
Hosted CBS special, "Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women"; also produced, based on his 1986 book
1991:
Third film with Mamet, "Homicide"
1991:
Acted in an episode of the ABC series "Civil Wars"
1992:
Worked as sleight of hand consultant on "Sneakers"
1992:
Was the cons and frauds consultant for "Leap of Faith" starring Steve Martin
1992:
Portrayed ratty investor in "The Water Engine" (TNT); adapted from the Mamet play
1994:
Was a consultant on Charles Shyer's "I Love Trouble"
1994:
Designed the illusion wheelchair for "Forrest Gump"
1994:
Wrote and produced solo stage show, "Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants"; directed off-Broadway by Mamet
1995:
Provided martini illusion for "Congo"
1996:
Appeared in HBO's special presentation of "Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants"
1997:
Portrayed George Lang in Mamet's "The Spanish Prisoner"; film also featured Steve Martin
1997:
Played seen-it-all porn cameraman Kurt Longjohn in Paul Thomas Anderson's "Boogie Nights"
1997:
Acted the part of computer expert Henry Gupta in "Tomorrow Never Dies"
1997:
Hosted the A&E special "The Story of Magic"
1998:
Appeared on UPN's "The Virtual Ed Sullivan Show"
1999:
Portrayed Vic Weems in "Mystery Men"
1999:
Reteamed with Anderson for "Magnolia"
1999:
Appeared in the London production of "Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants"
2000:
Made memorable guest appearance on "The X-Files" as an illusionist with a gambling problem
2006:
Played 'Milton the Magician' in Christopher Nolan's "The Prestige"
2008:
Featured in the David Mamet directed, "Redbelt"
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Education

Cornell University: Ithaca , New York -

Notes

"Jay" was originally his middle name but he legally changed it to his surname.

He was a recipient of the International Platform Associations's Magician of the Year Award.

Jay was a singer with the group Chico and the Deaftones.

"I've spent most of my life with cards, practising for eight to 10 hours a day ... those hours have always been hours of pleasure, not torture. I guess my relationship with them is the longest standing relationship of my life. The metaphor is that they're living, breathing human beings. I do feel that they shouldn't be mutilated or mangled or bent or written on." --Ricky Jay quoted in London's Evening Standard, June 18, 1999.

On the characters whose stories he tells in "Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants": "They're not always on the other side of the law. They're people who haven't necessarily been accepted into the mainstream, yes. But I think most of us find conmen [sic] appealing, unless we're the ones being conned. I think the reason for that is that the nature of the crime is non-violent. Conmen [sic] have always been considered the elite of the underworld because they use their brains rather than a weapon." --Jay to London's Evening Standard, June 18, 1999.

Family close complete family listing

grandfather:
Max Katz. An accomplished amateur magician.

Bibliography close complete biography

"Cards as Weapons" Darien House
"Many Mysteries Unraveled or Conjuring Literature in America 1786-1876"
"Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women: Unique, Eccentric and Amazing Entertainers: Stone Eaters, Mind Readers, Poison Resisters, Daredevils, Singing Mice, etc, etc, etc, etc" Farrar, Straus & Giroux
"Jay's Journal of Anomalies" Farrar, Straus & Giroux
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