AUSXIP Spartacus News


        20 January 2012

Stars pay tribute to Andy Whitfield at Spartacus premiere

ImageThe late Andy Whitfield's turn as the eponymous hero of Starz' Spartacus was always going to be a tough act to follow, especially given the sad reason why the Welsh actor was forced to leave the show.

Whitfield died last September from non-Hodgkin's lymphona, at the age of 39 , just 18 months after being diagnosed with the disease which halted filming on the popular saga.

But last night, his respectful successor Liam McIntyre took his place in the show's pantheon of stars as he premiered Spartacus: Vengeance at the Arclight theatre in Hollywood.

The 29-year-old Aussie accepted the role of the Roman gladiator who leads a slave rebellion, only after it became clear that Whitfield wouldn't be able to return.

He told the LA Times: 'Being Spartacus is challenging enough, but living up to what Andy did … it's tough.'

He added: 'We already know what Andy could do, if I was to do that - even to the best of my ability - I would have come up short. I can't be Andy. All I can do is try to get at what Spartacus is about on an emotional level."

McIntyre was joined on the red carpet by his co-stars, Lucy Lawless, 43 , who plays Lucretia, Viva Bianca, 28 , who appears as Ilithyia in the saga and British actress Jaime Murray, 34 , the daughter of former EastEnders star Bill, who appears as Gaia.

Whitfield took a break from the series after its first season after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Writers created a six-episode prequel, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena to give the father-of-two time to undergo treatment and recover before returning to the role.

But Whitfield's cancer returned and he officially bowed out of proceedings while urging everyone to continue without him.

'The love for Andy that fans have is phenomenal and uplifting,' series creator and executive producer Steven DeKnight told the LA Times.

'Obviously, everyone wishes he was still here and a part of it. There is a faction that says we should have cancelled the series … and I completely understand. It's the worst situation to find yourself in.'

The period saga has been a huge hit for the cable channel, with its visceral gore and colourful sex scenes.

After the sad news that Andy could not return, a search was launched in 2010 to find a successor to carry the show into a new season.

'We turned over every hunky rock,' DeKnight said.

A then-scrawny McIntyre was discovered on an audition tape, DeKnight was impressed but was concerned that he lacked the physical presence to play the part.

He'd only appeared in a few roles and had just one US showbiz credit to his name from HBO's mini-series, The Pacific.

Perfect for the role in all but body shape, McIntyre headed to New Zealand to undergo two months of boot camp to get into gladiator form.

Now, he's just concerned about how the fans will react when he finally roars: 'I am Spartacus.'

'It's like saying, 'I'm Bond. James Bond.'

It's so weird, and I just hope I did it justice and didn't come off like an idiot. I wanted a dozen takes, but they wouldn't let me.'

Click here for more photos from the premiere