R.I.P. Cliff Robertson & Andy Whitfield

Two actors familiar to genre audiences passed away over the weekend – one an Oscar winning veteran with a long career behind him, the other a young star unfairly cut down in his prime.

Cliff Robertson, whom most will recognise these days for his portrayal of Peter Parker’s father figure Uncle Ben in Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man”, passed away at age 88 from natural causes.

Robertson scored an Oscar in 1968 for the lead role in “Charly”, an adaptation of “Flowers for Algernon”. Other notable roles included “PT 109,” “The Best Man,” “Gidget,” “Three Days of the Condor,” “J.W. Coop” and various TV shows like “Falcon Crest,” “Batman” and “The Twilight Zone”.

The other tragedy today was the death of 39-year-old “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” star Andy Whitfield. The Welsh-born, Australian-trained actor got his start in Australia in guest roles on numerous local dramas including “All Saints,” “Packed to the Rafters” and “McLeod’s Daughters” along with the low-budget supernatural thriller “Gabriel”.

Whitfield was cast in the titular role in the Starz network’s blood-and-nudity soaked take on “Spartacus” which was a major hit for the cable channel in early 2010. A few weeks later came the news that Whitfield was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and began undergoing treatment.

It was hoped Whitfield would recover (initially that seemed to be the case), so much so that Starz opted to delay production on a second season of the show and instead shot a six-part prequel mini-series “Gods of the Arena” which aired earlier this year.

When the disease recurred, Whitfield was forced to leave the show with Liam McIntyre replacing him in the upcoming second season. Whitfield died yesterday morning in Sydney, surrounded by his family. He is survived by his wife and two children.