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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, side-show barker, singer, producer, encyclopedia salesman, accountant (on Wall Street)

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Ricky Jay was born Richard Jay Potash on June 26, 1946 in Brooklyn, NY, and grew up in Elizabeth, NJ. He harbored a passion for magic from an early age, and began performing publicly as early as four years of age. He started out performing on local television and at comedy clubs and nightclubs in New York City. Jay lived and performed in the Lake George, NY area in his 20s, before relocating to Los Angeles, CA. His career as a sleight-of-hand magician blossomed, thanks in part to appearances on late night talk shows, earning Jay great notability and even led him to work in other areas of show business, including acting and writing. His first book, Cards as Weapons (1977), was critically revered, and praise attached to follow-up publications. Jay developed a rapport with director David Mamet, appearing in his films "House of Games" (1987), "Things Change" (1988), "Homicide" (1991). In the early 1990s, Jay co-founded a consulting firm called Deceptive Practices that lent his talents as an illusionist to film productions. After appearing in "The Spanish Prisoner" (1997), Jay expanded his acting reach beyond the realm of Mamet, appearing in the James Bond movie "Tomorrow Never Dies" (1997) and working...

Ricky Jay was born Richard Jay Potash on June 26, 1946 in Brooklyn, NY, and grew up in Elizabeth, NJ. He harbored a passion for magic from an early age, and began performing publicly as early as four years of age. He started out performing on local television and at comedy clubs and nightclubs in New York City. Jay lived and performed in the Lake George, NY area in his 20s, before relocating to Los Angeles, CA. His career as a sleight-of-hand magician blossomed, thanks in part to appearances on late night talk shows, earning Jay great notability and even led him to work in other areas of show business, including acting and writing. His first book, Cards as Weapons (1977), was critically revered, and praise attached to follow-up publications. Jay developed a rapport with director David Mamet, appearing in his films "House of Games" (1987), "Things Change" (1988), "Homicide" (1991). In the early 1990s, Jay co-founded a consulting firm called Deceptive Practices that lent his talents as an illusionist to film productions. After appearing in "The Spanish Prisoner" (1997), Jay expanded his acting reach beyond the realm of Mamet, appearing in the James Bond movie "Tomorrow Never Dies" (1997) and working twice with filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson, appearing in "Boogie Nights" (1997) and providing narration for "Magnolia" (1999). On the small screen, Jay lent his talents both as an actor and a writer to the Western drama "Deadwood" (HBO 2004-06). He regularly channeled his talents and persona as an illusionist in his film appearances, notably in Christopher Nolan's "The Prestige" (2006) and the Tom Hanks-starring "The Great Buck Howard" (2008). Jay was ultimately the subject of the documentary "Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay" (2012). On Nov. 24, 2018, Jay died at the age of 72.

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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.
 Heist (2001) Don 'Pinky' Pincus
9.
 Heartbreakers (2001) Dawson'S Auctioneer
10.
 State and Main (2000) Jack Taylor
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1985:
After meeting playwright David Mamet and lecturing to his acting class, served as an advisor on Mamet's play "The Shawl"
1982:
Cast as Philostrate in the NY Shakespeare Festival production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in Central Park
1997:
Hosted the A&E special "The Story of Magic"
1997:
Portrayed George Lang in Mamet's "The Spanish Prisoner"; film also featured Steve Martin
1992:
Was the cons and frauds consultant for "Leap of Faith" starring Steve Martin
1996:
Appeared in HBO's special presentation of "Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants"
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
1990:
Hosted CBS special, "Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women"; also produced, based on his 1986 book
2000:
Made memorable guest appearance on "The X-Files" as an illusionist with a gambling problem
1992:
Portrayed ratty investor in "The Water Engine" (TNT); adapted from the Mamet play
1995:
Provided martini illusion for "Congo"
1981:
Acted in CBS variety special, "Like Magic"
1999:
Appeared in the London production of "Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants"
1994:
Designed the illusion wheelchair for "Forrest Gump"
1982:
Served as technical advisor for "The Escape Artist"
1991:
Third film with Mamet, "Homicide"
1994:
Was a consultant on Charles Shyer's "I Love Trouble"
1992:
Worked as sleight of hand consultant on "Sneakers"
1994:
Wrote and produced solo stage show, "Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants"; directed off-Broadway by Mamet
1991:
Acted in an episode of the ABC series "Civil Wars"
1998:
Appeared on UPN's "The Virtual Ed Sullivan Show"
2008:
Featured in the David Mamet directed, "Redbelt"
2006:
Played 'Milton the Magician' in Christopher Nolan's "The Prestige"
1999:
Portrayed Vic Weems in "Mystery Men"
1988:
Reteamed with Mamet for a role in "Things Change"
2009:
Was a recurring presence on "Flashforward"
2015:
Played uncle Josh in "The Automatic Hate"
1997:
Acted the part of computer expert Henry Gupta in "Tomorrow Never Dies"
1997:
Costarred in the cult hit film "Boogie Nights" (1997).
1999:
Reteamed with Anderson for "Magnolia"
1985:
Served as curator of the Mulholland Library of Conjuring and Allied Arts in Century City, California
2008:
Narrated Rian Johnson's sophomore feature "The Brothers Bloom"
2004:
Appeared on and wrote for the Western drama series "Deadwood" (HBO 2004-06).
2012:
Was the subject of the documentary "Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay" (2012).
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

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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