Another "Matrix" Star Mourned
by Mark Armstrong
Less than two months after the death of Aaliyah, The Matrix sequels have lost yet another key cast member.
Gloria Foster, the distinguished African-American actress most recently known for her grandmotherly, spoon-bending performance as Oracle in 1999's sci-fi blockbuster, died of complications from diabetes Saturday at her New York home. She was 64.
Foster's career on stage and screen spanned four decades, with her film credits including 1963's The Cool World and the 1991 TV movie Separate But Equal, opposite Sidney Poitier. She also racked up numerous TV guest appearances on shows such as I Spy, The Mod Squad, The Cosby Show, Law & Order and most recently, the Showtime series Soul Food.
But to many moviegoers, Foster is best remembered for her role as the enigmatic Oracle--a sweet, mystical Obi Wan Kenobi-type who guided Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) in the Warner Bros. smash.
Foster earned raves for the performance, and she was set to reprise her role in both sequels--Matrix Reloaded and the untitled third installment, produced by Joel Silver and written and directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski.
Movie Website Coming Attractions quotes a source close to the production saying Foster filmed most of her scenes for Matrix Reloaded (the source also described Foster's performances as "fantastic"), but nothing for the third film. Foster's character is said to be "integral" to the series and would create another huge problem for the films, which were being shot back-to-back in Australia.
A spokeswoman for Warner Bros. could not confirm any details Friday regarding the production or Foster's passing.
Either way, it's yet another sad turn of events for cast and crew of the much-anticipated Matrix sequels, who were just recently forced to scramble following the untimely death of R&B singer Aaliyah. The 22-year-old had been slated to play the character Zee in both films before she died in an August 25 plane crash in the Bahamas.
According to her Website, Aaliyah shot most of her scenes for Matrix Reloaded but none for the third film--in which she was supposed to play a significant part. Warner Bros. remains tight-lipped about what producers plan to do about her character in both films.
"We don't make statements about casting with regards to this production, and we don't plan to," says a Warner Bros. spokeswoman.
Matrix Reloaded is not due in theaters until summer 2003 and will reunite the original cast, including Reeves, Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss and Hugo Weaving.
Born in Chicago on November 16, 1936, the actress studied at the city's Goodman Theater and appeared in local theater before graduating to Broadway in 1961. One of her first major roles was as Ruth Younger in Raisin in the Sun. She won an Obie for the 1963 off-Broadway historical drama In White America.
Her first film role came with The Cool World, during which she met her future husband, actor-director Clarence Williams III (better known as Linc Hayes from TV's Mod Squad). They later divorced, and Foster never remarried.
By the 1980s, Foster began to receive less work, appearing mostly in TV guest spots. One particularly tough point came when she earned a Razzie Award for her supporting role in Bill Cosby's 1987 comedy dud Leonard Part 6.
"At a certain point, I faced a recognition that I was not going to work as much as I wanted to," Foster told author Robert Simonson in his book Role of a Lifetime. "What probably saved me is that 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."