NEW YORK (AP) — Andy Whitfield found himself on the fast track in Hollywood in 2010, thanks to a starring role in the Starz series “Spartacus: Blood and Sand.” Then he was diagnosed with cancer.
He attacked the disease with the same tenacity he brought to the “Spartacus” role, ultimately undergoing 11 rounds of chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Whitfield also saw a greater opportunity. He and his wife, Vashti, allowed cameras to follow the highs and lows of what was to come.
“It was kind of like handing it over,” said Vashti Whitfield. “And so we just continued on, you know, with the journey day by day, month by month.”
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Whitfield died in 2011, 18 months after he was diagnosed with cancer, leaving behind his wife and two young children. He was 39.
Vashti decided to let the documentary, called “Be Here Now,” move forward. A Kickstarter fundraiser to finish the film became the third most successful campaign in the crowd-sourcing site’s history.
“A new beginning formed,” said Vashti. “And so it felt just as appropriate and in fact even more important as Andy’s legacy to share the continuum of his kids and our, I guess, healing. And moving on with life.”
Vashti Whitfield, director Lilibet Foster and family friend, actor Jai Courtney (“Insurgent”), talked about “Be Here Now,” playing in limited release, in recent interviews with The Associated Press.
Associated Press: Vashti, were there any points during Andy’s cancer battle that you wanted to stop filming?
Whitfield: There were moments for me where, honestly, I would’ve rather kind of, you know, plucked out my own eyelashes at the thought of the interview coming up. But I also knew that every time we did a one-on-one interview and all the times the cameras were with us, that it took you out of fear, it took you out of some of the thoughts that weren’t necessarily supportive to being in the moment.
AP: What do you hope viewers will take away from the film besides Andy’s courage in fighting cancer?
Foster: The love story. This incredible interplay that he and Vashti have with one another. They’re extremely funny and I really wanted to capture that because I just thought it leapt out at me, so one of the things about the film is the story of the caregiver, and that’s Vashti. And that’s rarely told in stories like this, or under-told in many ways. So it’s really about the two of them and this journey that they go on.
Courtney: I think what we’re separating here is, you know, how he and Vashti decided to handle the circumstances. Cancer doesn’t discriminate so the way they were able to create something out of a situation and do something extraordinary with it, is testament to their, you know, incredible force.
AP: Vashti, what’s it like to watch the film now?
Whitfield: Look, for anybody that’s been through losing somebody and understands the kind of different layers of grief, it’s not linear. So, on one side, it’s interesting because your whole nervous system responds to you now seeing something visually that recalls something that could almost make you feel like you literally want to burst into tears or throw up, it’s so evocative, the memory. But that’s actually for me subsided now, and so now when I watch the film I’m able to see all these different layers to it. You know, I’m able to enjoy hanging out with my husband and listen to his voice for two hours.
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