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Image: Andy Whitfield
AP
Andy Whitfield played Spartacus in the Starz cable series "Spartacus: Blood and Sand." His role was recast after his illness made it impossible for him to continue in the part.
updated 9/12/2011 12:27:27 AM ET 2011-09-12T04:27:27

Andy Whitfield, the 39-year-old star of the cable series "Spartacus: Blood and Sand," has died.

"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."

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Andy Whitfield -- who was born in Wales and moved to Australia in 1999 -- was a virtual unknown when he was cast as the legendary Thracian slave in "Spartacus," a role made famous by Kirk Douglas in the 1960 Stanley Kubrick film.

Story: Oscar winner Cliff Robertson dies at 88

The series proved a breakout hit for the Starz network and made waves with its graphic violence and sexuality.

Whitfield appeared in all 13 episodes of the first season that aired in 2010, and was preparing to shoot the second when he was diagnosed with cancer.

Image: Andy Whitfield
Evan Agostini  /  AP
Andy Whitfield, seen in this Jan. 21, 2010 photo, died of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in Australia on Sunday, Sept. 11.

While waiting for Whitfield's treatment and expected recovery, the network produced a six-part prequel, "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena," that aired earlier this year with only a brief voiceover from the actor.

But in January after Whitfield's condition grew worse, the network announced that another Australian actor, Liam McIntyre, would take over the role.

"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 Sunday night. "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."

Whitfield's previous credits included appearances on the Australian TV shows "Packed to the Rafters" and "McLeod's Daughters."

Remember the actor on our Clicker Facebook page.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Andy Whitfield, star of ‘Spartacus’, died

  1. Closed captioning of: Andy Whitfield, star of ‘Spartacus’, died

    >>> fans are mowning andy whitfield who died of nonhodgkin's lymphoma at just 39 years of age. he lived in australia, came to fame playing spartacus in the series "blood & sand." he leaves behind a wife and two children.

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