By Bryant Gilmore
When Andy Whitfield completed his first season on the hit show “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” he was understandably exhausted. He had undergone an extensive and strenuous training regimen to prepare for his role and filmed choreographed battle scenes for 12 to 14 hours a day. Reflecting upon this, Whitfield said, “I was exhausted by the end of the first season, but it was one of the most extreme things that I had gone through.”
The training and long days of filming were nothing compared to what Whitfield would face next as a visit to the doctor soon after revealed that he was suffering from the symptoms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Whitfield immediately began treatment and was well enough to return for filming season two of “Spartacus” in September 2010, but after a check-up for insurance purposes, he was told that the cancer had returned and that without aggressive treatment, he would be dead within three to six months. This revelation forced Whitfield to drop out of the show that made him an international star and turn all of his focus on getting better.
While he took his doctor’s advice and adhered to more conventional means of treatment, Whitfield and his wife, Vashti, traveled to India to also explore alternative means of treatment. Throughout this journey, Whitfield and Vashti, with whom he had two children (a son, Jessie Red, and daughter, Indigo), documented every step that they took along the way and the footage has been turned into the new film “Be Here Now.”
Film crews followed Whitfield and Vashti for more than a year and the couple also filmed themselves on their journey, until shortly before he died at age 39 in September 2011.
“Be Here Now” is based on the motto that the Whitfields adopted while undergoing this personal upheaval. The couple even went as far as to get matching tattoos of the phrase on their arms and Whitfield explained, “’Be Here Now’ is about being in the present and not fearing what you don’t know.”
To complete work on the film, the production team, led by Academy Award-nominated director Lilibet Foster, pieced together footage for a Kickstarter campaign video (which you can check out below) to give Whitfield’s fans a taste of what to expect. It begins with a heartfelt plea from Whitfield’s good friend and ’Spartacus’ co-star Jai Courtney, asking fans and friends to give what they can to not only help with the funding of the film, but help work toward a cure for cancer. As it stands today, the Kickstarter fund has swelled to over $181,000, just shy of the $200,000 goal they hope to reach by July 23.
To learn more, visit the project’s Kickstarter site.