“On a beautiful sunny Sydney spring morning, surrounded by his family, in the arms of his loving wife, our beautiful young warrior Andy Whitfield lost his 18-month battle with lymphoma cancer,” Whitfield’s wife Vashti said in a statement cited by the Associated Press. “He passed peacefully surrounded by love. Thank you to all his fans whose love and support have help carry him to this point. He will be remembered as the inspiring, courageous and gentle man, father and husband he was.”
The Welsh-born Whitfield was first diagnosed with treatable Stage 1 non-Hodgkin lymphoma in early March of 2010. He was declared cancer-free two months later, after completing his original treatment therapy.
In July 2010, at the Spartacus panel at the San Diego Comic-Con (see photo above), Whitfield said, “I feel better than ever…. Like, seriously, I feel like I’m 10 years younger. I had a good rest.”
To accommodate the actor’s original unavailability, Starz halted production on the original Spartacus: Blood and Sand and fast-tracked a six-episode prequel series titled Spartacus: Gods of the Arena.
But come September 2010, Starz announced that Whitfield would not be returning for the original series’ second season after all, so that he could pursue “aggressive treatment” for a recurrence of his cancer.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend and colleague,” Starz President and CEO Chris Albrecht says in a statement to our sister site Deadline.com. “[The] man who played a champion on-screen was also a champion in his own life. Andy was an inspiration to all of us as he faced this very personal battle with courage, strength and grace. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.”
Spartacus‘ leading lady Lucy Lawless said Whitfield “left an indelible mark on all of us in the Spartacus family… He was a gentle man who never said a bad word about anyone, a gifted photographer, engineer (no really!) and a brilliant actor. Andy’s incandescent film presence made men want to be him and women want to marry him.”
In January of this year, Aussie actor Liam McIntyre (HBO’s The Pacific) was chosen to assume the title role in what is now titled Spartacus: Vengeance — and with his predecessor’s OK. “Andy did call up the [producers] and said, ‘I do want the show to continue.’ He gave his blessing,” McIntyre shared at this summer’s San Diego Comic-Con. Filling Whitfield’s sandals, he added, was “a great privilege and a great honor.”