R.I.P. Andy Whitfield

Two years ago, I was thrilled to hear about the new Starz TV series Spartacus: Blood and Sand. naturally, I’m a sucker for any programme or film set in ancient times, especially if it’s about someone as iconic as Spartacus. I watched the first two programmes on the Starz website, and thought that they were tremendous. Yes, they played fast and loose with historical fact, but the world portrayed therein was quite similar to Rome in the first century BC: it was very violent, accepting of slavery, gladiatorial combat and war. The sets were well created, and the actors were convincing. John Hannah finally shed the memories of his role in Four Weddings, and Lucy Lawless was way better than she was in Xena. Best of all, however, there was the stand out actor – Andy Whitfield. If there were ever huge shoes (or sandals) to step into, they belonged to Spartacus. He is not only one of the most memorable figures in world history, but he was played brilliantly by the square-chinned Kirk Douglas in Kubrick’s classic film. In 2010, Andy Whitfield assumed the mantle with ease.

Although I still haven’t seen the rest of series one of Blood and Sand (thought it best to steer clear until I’d written my books), I was convinced after just two episodes that Andy Whitfield had seized the role of Spartacus for himself. He was damn convincing too – charismatic, nuanced, and brave. I anticipated with great excitement how he would carry on the role through the series. Personally, I’ve only seen Kubrick’s film once, so for me Andy Whitfield had already become Spartacus. I think if he had lived to continue playing the part, he would have made the series into even more of an international hit than it has been.

To hear last year that Andy had been diagnosed with non Hodgkins lymphoma, a particularly nasty type of cancer, was a shock of the first order. Although most people talked about his recovery, and I sincerely wished for it too, I knew from my veterinary/medical experience that his chances weren’t good. Starz was good to him while he was ill, which I thought showed the channel’s integrity. Gods of the Arena, a short series and a prequel to series one, was filmed without him so that he could be ready for series two. Sadly, his illness recurred and he had to withdraw from filming. We heard little from then on, until the announcement of his tragic death on the 11th of September. Andy Whitfield was just 39 years old. He leaves Vashti, his wife, and Jesse and Indigo, his young children, behind. I can only imagine the size of the gap he has left in their lives, and my thoughts are with them at this sad, dark time.

He will not be forgotten, however. Andy Whitfield will forever live on in our minds as the most famous gladiator of all time.

And if there was ever a warrior who deserved to enter Elysium, it was Andy Whitfield.

Spartacus, I salute you!

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  1. Kara Iskandar
    Posted 21 September 2011 at 11:48 | Permalink

    Andy will be missed, that’s for sure. He portrayed a really convincing Spartacus and as many I wasn’t expecting him to leave us so soon…
    So very sad, R.I.P Andy.

  2. Mike Reed
    Posted 21 September 2011 at 12:19 | Permalink

    Ben – that was a nice tribute to Andy Whitfield, and my sympathies are with his family to the full. I thought too that he played Spartacus in Blood and Sand so well – like you said – you could just about say “He was Spartacus”, as so many claimed in the 1960 Stanley Kubrick film. It just goes to show how Andy Whitfield is going to be such a hard act to follow, that whoever replaces him is going to have a real hard job on his hands. The Gods rest Andy.

  3. John Salter
    Posted 21 September 2011 at 19:05 | Permalink

    I’m still shocked by Andy Whitfield’s untimely passing, especially as he had just proven himself to be a truly outstanding actor playing the role of Spartacus. Tragic loss for a talented man so young.


  4. LarryDun
    Posted 21 September 2011 at 21:07 | Permalink

    A very touching tribute, Ben…

  5. Posted 21 September 2011 at 21:43 | Permalink

    Lovely tribute Ben, and i agree he became spartacus for me in a way that Kirk Douglas never did (despite how well that film was done). may he RIP and i hope his family find some comfort in the joy he brought to millions.

  6. John Salter
    Posted 22 September 2011 at 10:42 | Permalink

    Ben, off topic but have a look at Sky News today! British Archaeologists are excavating a Roman shipyard in Portus believed to date to AD 117, the time of Emperor Trajan. The buildings are 150m long x 80m wide and were thought to have been 5 stories high!

  7. Ben Kane
    Posted 22 September 2011 at 13:47 | Permalink

    @John: Seen it – thanks! Amazing. Just awe-inspiring, actually. If only archaeologists had more funds…

  8. Lesley Fry
    Posted 13 February 2012 at 11:07 | Permalink

    You just so need to watch Spartacus !!!! Andy Whitfield was gonna be a big star, but the Gods wanted him…… The new guy, Liam McIntyre is good tho, he will never be the original, but who could be, sadly once this series is finished he wont get the chance to prove ‘I am Spartacus’, nothing else is known about them…its a brilliant series, Crixus (Manu Bennett) is superb…….,

  9. Ben Kane
    Posted 11 September 2012 at 22:04 | Permalink

    Since then, I have watched all of the prequel series, and series one. I waited until I’d finished my two Spartacus books, and then watched the lot as a treat in about ten days. I have to say that my opinion of Andy Whitfield is even higher now. He brought an immense presence to the role of Spartacus. It was brooding, heroic, tragic and compelling. By the final episode, I could hardly contain myself. Outstanding acting, and TV. Today is the one year anniversary of Andy’s death. May he rest in peace, and may the sorrow of Vashti, his wife, and his children be more bearable than it was.

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