NEW YORK – Ricky Jay, a magician, historian of eccentric artists and an actor who appeared in "Boogie Nights" and other movies, has died. He was 72 years old.

Jay died of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles on Saturday, according to his manager Winston Simone.

The magician / actor appeared in numerous movies and TV series, including HBO's "Boogie Nights," "Magnolia," "Tomorrow Never Dies," and "Deadwood." He consulted on "Ocean Thirteen" and "Forrest Gump" and collected rare books about unusual artists and artists dating back hundreds of years.

His one-man shows played for crowded audiences, where his artistic talent impressed even his magical colleagues. In a famous trick, he punched a watermelon with a card tossed into the air.

He has also written several books on games, magic and magicians, including "Dice: Deception, Fate and Rotten Luck".

Jay enjoyed stories of curious characters, gamblers and con artists in the story, and wrote a book that celebrates the art of Matthias Buchinger, an 18th-century German magician born without legs and hands.

Buchinger's artifacts collected by Jay were presented at a 2015 exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

"The breadth of his knowledge and appreciation for magic and the allied arts was truly remarkable," wrote actor and wizard Neal Patrick Harris on Twitter. "News so sad, such a profound loss. "

Jay has often worked with playwright David Mamet, who produced his one-man show "Ricky Jay & His 52 Assistants." All the performances of the show in New York were sold out and won an Obie Award for off-Broadway theatrical productions.

A later off-Broadway show, "Ricky Jay: On the Stem," also produced by Mamet, played in crowded houses for six months. The Associated Press news agency called it a "quick and fun trip through New York's forgotten history – with specific attention to the weird characters who thrived decades ago on Broadway."

In addition, Jay appeared in Mamet's films as "House of Games", "State and Main" and "Heist".

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