The “greatest”, a “genius” and “truly remarkable” are just some of the words magicians, actors and directors have used to describe Ricky Jay, who has died aged 72.
The American star – known as one of the most compelling figures in magic – also appeared in films such as Boogie Nights, Magnolia and James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies.
Jay’s manager Winston Simone called him “one of a kind”, adding “we will never see the likes of him again”.
The 72-year-old died of natural causes in Los Angeles on Saturday.
Jay was one of the first magicians to open for rock bands in the 1960s and used to hold the world record for throwing a playing card the furthest – a distance of 190ft (58 metres) at a speed of 90mph.
His act often featured him hurling a card with such power that it pierced a watermelon.
A profile in The New Yorker in 1993 called him “the most gifted sleight of hand artist alive” and Jay was also known for his card tricks and memory feats.
Actor Steve Martin, with whom he appeared in The Spanish Prisoner, described Jay in the New Yorker profile as “the intellectual elite of magicians”.
Martin added: “He’s expertly able to perform and yet he knows the theory, history, literature of the field.”
Jay was also in TV shows including Deadwood and The X-Files and was a consultant on several films like Ocean’s Thirteen, The Prestige, The Illusionist and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.
Jay’s partner in their Deceptive Practices consulting firm, Michael Weber, tweeted: “I am sorry to share that my remarkable friend, teacher, collaborator and co-conspirator is gone.”
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation director Christopher McQuarrie attributed the success of the film’s opera sequence to Jay.
I was blessed to have the legendary Ricky Jay as a consultant on Rogue Nation. 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.
— Christopher McQuarrie (@chrismcquarrie) November 25, 2018
He said: “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.”
The scene features Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and Benji (Simon Pegg) searching for a suspect at the Vienna Opera House.
Various other spies are also in the sequence in what feels sometimes like a dance, sometimes like a fight, to either kill or protect the Austrian leader.
And this all happens during a performance of Turandot, an Italian opera by Giacomo Puccini.
Penn Jillette, one half of magic duo Penn and Teller, tweeted: “Oh man, Ricky Jay. Just a genius. One of the best who ever lived. We’ll all miss you, Ricky. Oh man.”
Fellow magician and actor Neil Patrick Harris wrote: “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.”
Jay, who was born Richard Jay Potash in Brooklyn, was introduced to magic by his grandfather.
He first worked in film as a technical adviser on The Escape Artist in 1982.
A documentary about his life, Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay, was released in 2012.