When 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. “Andy and Vashti allowed unprecedented openness and access, with the camera following them through one of the hardest periods of their lives,” Foster said. “At the same time, there is a love story in the film with the two of them, and Andy’s inspirational approach to healing cancer makes it very uplifting. It’s very beautiful, poetic and inspirational film.” The crew filmed until a week before Whitfield’s death in September of last year. They have done additional shooting and have a little more to go, along with editing and post-production. The team needs about $200,000 to complete the film and is reaching out to Whitfield’s fans.
“The reason is that so many of Andy’s followers live on the Internet, and this is a way to give them an opportunity to be part of the making of the film,” Foster said. Be Here Now‘s team have set up a site for donations that could be as little as $1. Depending on the size of the contribution, fans will receive custom leather bracelets engraved with the words Be Here Now, collectables from Spartacus, a phone chat with Whitfield’s Spartacus co-star and friend Jai Courtney, a signed photo of him and Whitfield, dog tags like those Whitfield once wore, and a never released portrait of the actor, among other items. Some of the items were provided by Starz, which has been supportive of the project, including allowing official and behind-the-scenes footage from Spartacus to be used in the documentary. “This is a way for us to give an opportunity to the public to bring Andy’s story to live and fulfill his wishes to have his legacy live on,” Foster said.
Below is a trailer for the documentary introduced by Courtney. For a link to the Be Here Now website where fans can make contributions, click here.