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Documentary About Andy Whitfield’s Final Days Reaches Out To Fans For Funding

By | Friday June 8, 2012 @ 1:19pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Andy Whitfield Documentary CancerWhen Spartacus star Andy Whitfield was battling cancer in the last months of his life, he had a camera crew with him every step of the way. The result is Be Here Now, a feature-length documentary project about the late actor, which is launching a campaign to raise money for its completion.

Related: R.I.P. Andy Whitfield

Whitfield was first diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after wrapping the first season of Starz’s Spartacus, a role that would make him a global star. He went through a rigorous program of chemotherapy and was deemed as being in remission when, during a physical to return to Spartacus, his blood tests raised a flag, resulting in a devastating news for the actor — his cancer had come back stronger than ever, leaving him with about a 25% chance of survival. Facing another round of treatments, Whitfield and his wife Vashti decided to have it all documented. “Our last experience with it was very difficult and lonely, we felt we had a lot of questions,” Whitfield’s manager Sam Maydew recalls the actor and his wife telling him back then. “We want to bring awareness to cancer treatment so others who go through it feel they’re not alone.” Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Lilibet Foster (Speaking In Strings), whose family hails from the same small Welsh town where Whitfield was raised, came on board. She spent the next year with Whitfield and his family as the actor went through grueling rounds of chemo and traveled to India for a shot at an Eastern medicine treatment.

When the cancer returned, Whitfield and his wife got matching Be Here Now tattoos Foster says symbolized the fact that “they would take the healing in their own hands” and also provided the title for her documentary. Read More »

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Spartacus’ Jai Courtney Takes On Tom Cruise In ‘One Shot’

By | Thursday September 29, 2011 @ 10:07am PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Jai Courtney, who starred in the first season of the Starz series Spartacus: Blood and Sand, has landed a lead in One Shot, Paramount’s Christopher McQuarrie-directed drama based on the Lee Child-penned  Jack Reacher novel series. In One Shot, Reacher investigates what seems like an open and shut case of a sniper who guns down five random victims. Reacher, teamed with a detective (Rosamund Pike) and uncovers a conspiracy. Courtney plays a highly trained sniper who is motivated to stop Reacher. Courtney starred in the first Spartacus season along with the late Andy Whitfield, a fellow Australian who took Courtney under his wing and got him signed by his manager, Sam Maydew, at The Collective. He’s repped by UTA and Australia-based Mark Morrissey.

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Starz Sets Andy Whitfield Tribute

By | Friday September 16, 2011 @ 9:17am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Starz will pay tribute to former Spartacus star Andy Whitfield, who died of cancer last Sunday. The tribute, which will air this Sunday at 9 PM, will include five episodes of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, including the premiere and finale episodes. The network is set to re-air the entire first season of Spartacus: Blood and Sand starring Whitfield starting on Dec. 16.

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R.I.P. Andy Whitfield Of Starz’s ‘Spartacus’

By | Sunday September 11, 2011 @ 6:45pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

In the arena as Spartacus, he was invincible. But in real life, former Spartacus: Blood and Sand star Andy Whitfield has lost his battle with cancer. The Welsh-born actor, who was beloved by fans of Starz’s gladiator drama, passed away today in Sydney, Australia, where he had lived since 1999. “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. “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.” Whitfield was 39.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Andy Whitfield,” Starz president and CEO Chris Albrecht said in a statement. “We were fortunate to have worked with Andy in Spartacus and came to know that 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. He will live on in the hearts of his family, friends and fans.” Added Spartacus creator Steven DeKnight via Twitter, “No words to express the depth of such a loss. You will be deeply missed, my brother.”

Whitfield got his big break when he was cast as the title character on Spartacus: Blood and Sand. But during a routine checkup in March 2010 just before production on Season 2 was to begin, he was diagnosed with what was described at the time as treatable Stage 1 non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Production was put on hold while Whitfield underwent treatment. He eventually went into remission and was days away from starting filming on Season 2 when his cancer came back and he had to resume aggressive treatment. Despite that, he remained positive, while the Spartacus role was eventually recast with Liam McIntyre. Read More »

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Liam McIntyre Is The New Spartacus, To Succeed Andy Whitfield On Starz Drama

Nellie Andreeva

The search for a replacement of cancer-stricken Spartacus star Andy Whitfield is over. Australian actor Liam McIntyre has been named the new star of the Starz drama series, which became a breakout hit for the pay cable channel when it first launched a year ago. McIntyre was one of 3 actors who were flown to New Zealand to audition in November. He was the only one that remained in consideration after the test while the network continued to see other candidates. Starz brass reportedly liked his acting abilities but he was asked to bulk up his thin frame in order to pass off as a believable gladiator. In announcing McIntyre’s casting, Starz said he “has excelled at a grueling and rigorous audition process to claim the title role in the second season” of Spartacus: Blood and Sand. The series’ prequel, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, debuts on Friday. Here is more from the network’s release:

McIntyre takes over the role of the Thracian warrior sold into slavery in the Roman Republic city of Capua – where he rises to become the champion of the city – before leading the slave revolt that ended Season 1. The part was played in the first season of “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” by Andy Whitfield, who was forced to leave the show in order due to health issues. Whitfield gave his blessing to the recasting.

“Since no one can really replace Andy, we realized that we should instead find an actor who can truly lead ‘Spartacus’ forward,” Straz’s CEO Chris Albrecht notes. “It was important to us to have Andy endorse the idea of recasting this part, which he did in the same heroic manner that he’s dealt with his whole ordeal. And that, coupled with our fortune in finding a young actor with the gladiator credentials and the acting ability of Liam, makes it easier for us to keep this hit franchise going.”

Read More »

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Dominic Purcell To Enter ‘Spartacus’ Arena?

Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: With the long-delayed second season of Spartacus: Blood and Sand officially a go, who will replace cancer-stricken Andy Whitfield as Rome’s most famous gladiator? Last Friday, Starz’s boss Chris Albrecht said that the network brass are “confident that we will find an actor who can ably step into Spartacus’ sandals.” I hear that that same day, the pay cable network’s executives had received a screen test for the role done by former Prison Break star Dominic Purcell. Throwing Purcell’s name into the mix is an intriguing proposition. For once, he does have the the physique to pull off a believable gladiator. Australian actor Liam McIntyre is said to still be in serious contention for the role, and he continues to bulk up as the network execs reportedly liked him as an actor in his November screen test but his thin frame was a problem. But last week, rumors started circulating that Starz had also approached a name actor for the part. Purcell has been vacationing in his native Australia, so he put himself on tape there and emailed the clip to Starz brass last Friday. It is not clear what the network’s final decision will be, but if Purcell gets … Read More »

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TCA: Chris Albrecht On ‘Spartacus’, Comedy

Nellie Andreeva

Spartacus: Blood and Sand will continue. Ending months of speculation, Starz president and CEO Chris Albrecht confirmed that the costume drama will proceed with Season 2. “We are officially going ahead with the long planned but unfortunately delayed second season of Spartacus,” he said at the opening of Starz’s TCA session. “We don’t have casting news but … we’re very confident where we are in the casting process that we will find an actor who will step in the sandals of Spartacus although we will never be able to replace (cancer-stricken original star) Andy Whitfield.” In November, Starz flew 3 actors to New Zealand, with one of them, Australian Liam McIntyre, still in the running for the lead as he is bulking up for the task.

Albrecht was unapologetic about the channel’s creative direction towards noisy, commercial dramas or as he called it “premium TV-flavored popcorn. “We’re leaving the quiet dramas to other networks.” Here are few more soundbites from Albrecht’s short impromptu Q&A:

- On how Starz is able to do expensive-looking costume dramas like Spartacus and Camelot: “We borrowed costumes from Rome,” a series he once launched on HBO.

- On Starz’s decision to get out of the comedy series business with the cancellation of Party Down: “We’re not a very funny group.” He then added: “We decided to focus on one-hour dramas, those are the kind of productions that travel better. And it takes one to fill an hour, it’s hard to find two comedies that go together. So … Read More »

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‘Spartacus’ Lead Narrows To One – Or None

Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE THURSDAY UPDATE: I hear that none of the three actors who screen tested for the Spartacus lead this week, Stephen Amell, Aiden Turner and Liam McIntyre, got the role. However, Starz is still holding onto McIntyre, the Australian, while the other two have been released. He may still get to be the next Spartacus, succeeding the ailing Andy Whitfield. But I hear Starz brass is considering all options for its hit series, including the possibility of ending it or bringing in someone else for the lead. Read More »

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‘Spartacus’ Star Andy Whitfield’s Cancer Is Back: Won’t Return Next Season To Series

Nellie Andreeva

This shocking news that he needs aggressive treatment for a recurrence of cancer was made public today by Starz cable network and the Spartacus: Blood and Sand star himself, Andy Whitfield. He was first diagnosed with treatable Stage 1 non-Hodgkin lymphoma in early March. But recently the actor had been in remission and training hard for Season 2. He even attended the Spartacus panel at Comic-Con where he said he felt “better than ever”. His first diagnosis put production on hold for the next season while he underwent treatment. He was given a clean bill of health in May. To bridge the two seasons of Spartacus, Starz greenlighted the prequel Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, which is now filming in New Zealand and will premiere in January as planned. However, the future of the mothership series is unclear. Production on the second season was supposed to start soon.

Here is the network’s statement:

Andy Whitfield, star of Starz’s “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” has been advised by his doctors to immediately resume aggressive treatment for a recurrence of cancer, as a result of which he will not be returning for the series’ second season, which was tentatively set to air in September 2011.

“It’s with a deep sense of disappointment that I must step aside from such an exceptional project as Spartacus and all the wonderful people involved. It seems that it is time for myself

Read More »

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Trio Cast In Starz’s ‘Spartacus’ Prequel

Nellie Andreeva

dustin_clareDustin Clare, a virtual unknown in the U.S., but a popular TV actor in his native Australia, has landed the lead in Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, Starz’s six-part prequel to hit series Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Jaime Murray and Marisa Ramirez are set to co-star in the prequel, which focuses on the House of Batiatus in its pre-Spartacus days and chronicles the rise of Gannicus (Clare), the first gladiator to become Champion of marisa_ramirezjaime-murrayCapua. Returning to reprise their roles from Spartacus: Blood and Sand are Lucy Lawless (Lucretia), John Hannah (Batiatus), Peter Mensah (Oenomaus) and Manu Bennett (Crixus). Murray, repped by Gersh and Luber Rocklin, will play Gaia, Lucretia’s (Lawless) friend and a Capua social climber. Ramirez will play a beautiful slave girl with complicated relationships. Spartacus: Blood and Sand star Andy Whitfield will appear briefly in the prequel, which is slated to begin production in August in New Zealand for a January premiere on Starz. Whitfield, who plays the title character of Spartacus, will then rejoin the show in season two, which is set to begin production later this year. Whitfield, Lawless, Hannah, Spartacus: Blood and Sand co-star Viva Bianca and executive producer/head writer Steven S. DeKnight will be on hand for the series’ panel at Comic-Con on July 23.

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