Craig Lindquist has landed his first leading role in “Our Father’s Keeper” where he plays a man diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
But for this Kauai resident, it’s more than an opportunity to grow his acting career.
This time, it’s personal. He watched as Alzheimer’s took its toll on his mother over four years until her death.
“In the final stage of Alzheimer’s, it was pretty rough,” he said.
It was from that experience he took on a character who is a husband, a father, a banker, everything going for him, when this progressive disorder suddenly takes hold. One minute he is playing racquetball and the next, he is on the floor. It destroys memory and the brain’s ability to function, and its impact on him and his family is great. There is a loss of support, of income, of a central figure in life.
One day he is himself, the smiling, strong person everyone has known all these years. The next, he is the opposite. He is weak, uncertain, detached. It is as if that person is gone, replaced by one who looks the same on the outside, but is empty inside.
A key part of the film is when he wanders from home, becomes lost and befriends a young girl as his family frantically searches for him.
“You watch as he gets Alzheimer’s and you watch as it begins to deteriorate, how it affects the family, how they struggle to deal with it,” Lindquist said.
The small, independent, low-budget film is a family story directed by Rob Diamond, who also wrote the story, with the screenplay by Chris Dallimore. It also stars Kyler Steven Fisher and Shayla McCaffrey.
It is set for release in March and Lindquist hopes it will be shown on Kauai.
Lindquist, a woodworker who has written columns for TGI, has been in dozens of movies, mostly smaller roles. He came to know Diamond years ago in a film, “Sacred Vow,” and it was Diamond who reached out to him about “My Father’s Keeper.”
“There’s nobody else I want for this but you,” he said. “Will you do it?”
Absolutely, said Lindquist.
“Definitely the best part I’ve ever had,” he said. “First time I’ve ever had to carry a film. It was exciting, an honor and a privilege to be cast.”
This was a moment he had waited for. He began pursuing an acting career at age 37, attending classes four years, three days a week, six hours a night. He has auditioned for hundreds of roles.
“It takes a long time to learn it if you want to do it right,” he said.
“Eventually, you get parts here, parts there. To really be successful in this business, you really need to move to Los Angeles.”
But he chose to stay close to home.
“My Father’s Keeper” was shot a little over a year ago in northern Utah over two weeks, 15-hour days.
An advanced showing last year attracted a crowd and some of the cast members, including Lindquist, were on hand to talk to the audience afterward.
Many had stories to share about their experience with Alzheimer’s — how it affected their father, their mother, someone they knew.
“Nobody left the theater for two hours,” Lindquist said. “People wanted to talk about it.”
He believes the movie connected with people because it is genuine.
“Everything about that movie was spot-on believable,” he said. “What Rob did with this movie with a shoe-string budget, it’s a miracle.”
“We wanted to touch them in the center of their beings, and we did,” he said “You can’t reach people on that level unless you’ve prepared for it.”
Before filming began, Lindquist researched Alzheimer’s disease. He learned “symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment.” (alz.org)
He also received permission to visit an assisted-living facility to watch Alzheimer’s patients and talk to their caregivers about the disease.
“I never could have done it without doing that in advance,” he said.
One of the hardest parts was figuring out how to get the elasticity out of his face and how to make it droop, as that of an a person with Alzheimer’s. He spent hours in front of the mirror, teaching himself to do it.
“It’s unique about their faces, it’s like their muscles have quit,” he said.
Lindquist is dedicated to this craft, comes to rehearsals prepared, knowing lines, showing the emotion of his character.
“It’s a very sacred responsibility to me, and I don’t lose sight of it, that I’m being asked to portray somebody and we’re asking people to come to a theater and spend money and become literally involved in our story.”
Lindquist, 64, has an agent in Utah and hopes to land more roles like this one and work with folks like those in “Our Father’s Keeper.”
”I just think when there are good men doing good things, things just work on their behalf,” he said.