Andy Whitfield, the Welsh-born actor who rose to fame last year as the title character in “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” and was forced to withdraw from the role due to a battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, succumbed to the disease on Sunday, Sept. 11. He was 39 years old.
Whitfield died at his home in Sydney, Australia with his with wife and children by his side. He was first diagnosed with cancer in early 2010, shortly before filming was to begin on season two of “Spartacus.” Fans across the globe closely followed his progress and rejoiced when he was given a clean bill of health in June of this year. However, by September, the cancer had regrouped.
The British “Daily Mail” newspaper reports that Whitfield chose a gentle metaphor to break the news to his children, ages six and four. “I am going to go to sleep now as my body won’t work anymore,” he said. “I am like a butterfly with broken wings. I will always be with you and will always be watching over you. I love you.”
His wife, Vashti, released a statement following Whitfield’s passing. “On a beautiful sunny, Sydney spring morning, surrounded by family, in the arms of his loving wife, our beautiful young warrior lost his 18-month battle with lymphoma cancer.
“He passed peacefully surrounded by love. Thank you to all his fans whose love and support have helped carry him to this point. He will be remembered as the inspiring, courageous and gentle man, father and husband he was.”
His costars and coworkers have spoken out. “No words to express the depth of such a loss,” wrote “Spartacus” creator Steven S. DeKnight. “You will be deeply missed, my brother.”
“Obviously, Andy left an indelible mark on all of us in the ‘Spartacus’ family,” said costar Lucy Lawless. “Andy’s incandescent film presence made men want to be him and women want to marry him. Andy’s two babies will always know that their daddy cherished them and their mother, Vashti, above all things. How lucky we were to have him grace all our lives.”
In a statement, Chris Albrecht, CEO and President of the Starz network that aired “Spartacus,” said “the man who played a champion onscreen 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. He will live on in the hearts of his family, friends and fans.”