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Distinguished actress most widely known for her performance as Oracle in The Matrix, Ms. Foster died of complications from diabetes Saturday, October 6, 2001 at her New York home. She was 64.

Foster's career on stage and screen spanned four decades, and her film credits included 1963's The Cool World (where she met and married star Clarence Williams III, though they divorced some time later, and Ms. Foster never re-married) and the 1991 TV movie Separate But Equal, co-starring Sidney Poitier. She also made a multitude of TV guest appearances on shows such as I Spy, The Mod Squad (also starring Williams), The Cosby Show, Law & Order and most recently, the Showtime series Soul Food.

Born in Chicago on November 16, 1936, the actress appeared in local theater productions before moving on to Broadway in 1961. She starred as Ruth Younger in Raisin in the Sun, and won an Obie Award for the 1963 off-Broadway historical drama In White America. She's also been featured in horrible stinkers of movies, such as Bill Cosby's roundly-reviled Leonard Part 6, filmed in 1987.

But her most visible role to date was as Oracle--a somewhat inscrutable prophet (is there any other kind?) who guided Keanu Reeves to his destiny in the 1999 smash The Matrix. She also, in this humble noder's opinion, completely swallowed Reeves just by baking cookies and smoking cigarettes in the five minute scene they shared together.

Film critics were also impressed with her performance, earning raves for Ms. Foster's brief role, and she was set to reprise her role in both sequels--The Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions. There is no word as of yet how her death will affect the production of these movies, but they will certainly be diminished by her absence. Production sources for the films say that her scenes for the second installment were mostly completed (and they say Foster was "fantastic"), but her role was described as "integral" to the entire trilogy, and it will probably have to be re-cast for the final installment. Matrix Reloaded is not due in theaters until 2003.

Words of Ms. Foster to live by: "...I've always felt it was important to live; to experience the day; to experience the hurt, the pain, the love. And come your next role, you're so much more vital."

I've now seen The Matrix Reloaded, Foster's last film, and her all-too-brief appearance was what kicked-started the film into high action. Given the stunning revelation as to who and what Oracle really is, it's really sad to consider that she won't be in the final film of the Matrix trilogy.

Here is her filmography:

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