Chad Lindberg is most known for his film role as Jesse in The Fast and the Furious. More recently, he has appeared in the recurring role of Chad Willingham on “CSI: NY” and as Ash on “Supernatural”. He took part in Tony Zierra’s 2009 documentary My Big Break, which follows the early careers of Lindberg, Wes Bentley, Brad Rowe and Greg Fawcett.
I spoke with him mid-January 2011 to discuss his role in the remake of I Spit on Your Grave, which should be hitting store shelves now, if it hasn’t already. Chad was very laid back, very fun to chat with… we started with a run-down of his career and went from there.
GS: Here’s the set-up. I’ll ask you five “I Spit on Your Grave” questions, but first… five questions about films or shows you were involved with. I’ll just name them and you say whatever about them.
CL: Sounds good, man.
GS: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997) with Sarah Michelle Gellar.
CL: That was my first part, and I was excited to work with Sarah. Actually, I was really just excited to be working. I didn’t expect that show to take off like it did. I remember being, “They’re turning that movie into a TV show?”
GS: “The X-Files” (1998) with David Duchovny.
CL: To be a part of such a phenomenon… David Duchovny, Gillian… you’re running around with Mulder and Scully. David was really cool and had a very dry sense of humor. Him and I were stuck in a mud pit for a couple hours and he was constantly making jokes. We were so close, and he would belch jokingly. It was funny. But to be on a show like that was wonderful, very cool.
GS: “City of Angels” (1998) with Nic Cage.
CL: Yes. I auditioned like twice for that small role. I was the son of some guy who passed away, but it was a pivotal moment for Meg Ryan’s character. I didn’t have any lines, but they made me cry — I had to cry during the audition. When you watch the movie, blink and you might miss me. It was still early on in my career, and got to work with Meg Ryan. I walked past Nicolas Cage, but I never said anything to him. That man has such a presence about him, I remember that very distinctly. It’s one of my favorite movies to watch, and not because I’m in it.
GS: “October Sky” (1999) with Jake Gyllenhaal.
CL: It was my first lead in a studio film. I was 21 and headed off to Tennessee to film. My co-stars were all kids. This was Jake Gyllenhaal pre-Brokeback. Chris Cooper was there, who is respected and I respect. It was a very family film. And actually they show it in science classes all over the world.
GS: “Last Samurai” (2003) with Tom Cruise.
CL: I got the audition and it was a really small part, they gave me one page of the script. My agent wondered if I even wanted to go in on it, and I said, “Yeah, man, it’s Tom Cruise. I love Tom Cruise, I grew up watching Tom Cruise.” So I went in and said a couple lines and ending up getting the part, if you can call it a part. I like to think of it as a glorified extra. I’m the Winchester rifle rep assistant, and I’m holding cue cards up for Tom Cruise to read. On set, or off set it’s Tom Cruise. He’s just Tom Cruise. I will say that out of so many actors, that man works so hard… he really brings it, and it was a thrill for me to watch him do his thing.
GS: Switching gears… The original “I Spit on Your Grave” is seen by some as outright exploitation and others as a feminist film… where do you stand?
CL: That’s a good question. I think it’s a movie with a lot of different levels, a lot of everything. I think it’s more of a feminist film. I don’t think it’s exploitative. I mean, every kind of film exploits whatever they’re doing. It’s just one of those movies… it’s hard to pin-point what it is, it always strikes up a conversation and you can’t just sum it up.
GS: Steven Monroe directed by Meir Zarchi executive produced. Did this combination of old and new on the set affect the film?
CL: The decisions were mostly Steven. Meir came on set and you could tell he was giddy, happy and excited just watching it happen. But all of it was Steven. I’m sure beforehand they worked out some sort of agreement or discussed what they were envisioning, but on set it was Steven. Meir was like a little boy on set. It was cool to meet him and hear his stories.
GS: I’ve been warned that Meir is bit of a talker.
CL: Oh, you heard that? (laughs) Yes, yes he is. He likes to talk, but he’s a very sweet man.
GS: The original has a very lengthy revenge sequence, with sex used a weapon. The new one is just plain gore. Do you feel that the new one is not as intellectual or psychological as the original?
CL: I think there’s some in the original and in the remake. The psychological aspects in the new one are in the first half of the film, where they are antagonizing her. That’s pretty psychological. I know in the original she sort of sexually seduces them. And we wonder, is that the right thing? And now she doesn’t use the sexual invite, she just kills them. But I think both films were psychological in their own way.
GS: Your character is mentally challenged, so he does wrong, but may not be fully aware of his wrongdoing. Should we sympathize with him?
CL: I think yes and no. He’s a victim as well, from his friends. But at the same time, he made a choice and thought that maybe it was a good idea. If you make a choice, you have to be accountable for that, whether you’re mentally challenged or not. I tried to make him a sympathetic character, because I think he just got caught up with his buddies and his body took over. He looks up to his friends and that’s all he’s got. But he made a choice he knew was wrong.
GS: What sort of interaction did the male stars have with Sarah Butler on the set?
CL: We became a family unit. They were out shooting a couple days before I got there, but when I got there we all meshed extremely well. The first day of shooting had us antagonizing her, and already by the second or third day was the actual rape scene. So there was a lot of anticipation and anxiety, but when we did those scenes we actually bonded. We stopped shooting at 5 or 6 in the morning and were in the van back to the hotel, and emotionally I was like, “What is going on?” We loved it, it was a creative high. We would go back, sit in the hot tub, have a beer and laugh it off. We got along so well, it was one of my favorite casts I ever worked with.
GS: It seems like the rape scene would be really awkward if you hadn’t met before.
CL: It was and it wasn’t. I had actually met Sarah a few times. She was so cool, and we all went for it and trusted each other. We made sure she was safe. After a scene, I’d look over and give her a thumbs-up, she’s give a thumbs-up back, and we knew it was cool. Shooting the film was the time of my life.