There is seemingly not a single person among Hollywood’s elite who hasn’t had some contact with Radioman. In fact, chances are that the majority of us have seen him in the Hollywood films we’ve watched but not even noticed. Having worked with Hollywood’s biggest talents – Josh Brolin, George Clooney, and Martin Scorsese among others – he has been an extra in over 100 Hollywood films, usually playing a homeless person; an apt role for someone who used to be homeless himself.
Radioman isn’t a documentary with much sense of direction. It is more like a snippet of an eccentric man who has seemingly managed to salvage his life at the last second. Homeless and a heavy drinker, Craig ‘Radioman’ Castaldo (so called because of the radio he wears around his neck) managed to one day stumble onto the set of a Hollywood production, where he was instantly warmed to by those involved, and invited to make small appearances in subsequent films. His bit-part role in Hollywood films helped Craig clean up his act, quit drinking, and get a roof over his head.
Radioman isn’t an easy documentary subject to gauge. On the one hand he’s highly likeable. Clearly in love with the stars of Hollywood, we see him recording mini-interviews with such stars as Ricky Gervais, James Gandolfini and Matt Damon. He is also pretty handy at making impressions of characters in iconic cinematic moments, and there was even a moment early on in the film that we had to do a double take on Radioman, thinking it was Robin Williams in disguise (incidentally, Williams is his favourite actor).
In contrast to this childlike love of the industry however, is an underlying bitterness that has presumably arisen from a tumultuous childhood and years of living on the street. He recounts with displeasure various incidents with New York’s police forces, in which they’d beat him with batons to move him along from sleeping spots, just as he recalled his own father giving him similar treatment.
Also strange to see is his apparent disdain for film extras, as he derisively points to a group of extras shouting in a crowd scene and informs the camera that what they’re doing is ‘not acting,’ and that anyone can just shout and be part of a crowd.
One of the more interesting aspects of the film is seeing various familiar faces of Hollywood being caught off-guard when Radioman pulls them over for conversations. Some – like the ever-professional Tom Hanks – react with charm and grace, while Ricky Gervais reveals a snarky side to him, as he turns the camera on Radioman and mocks his appearance. The impromtu celebrity interviews provide much of the film’s substance, which is a little disappointing in light of the fact that the documentary is supposed to be about Radioman.
While Radioman’s story highlights the difficulties and roots of homelessness, and one man’s incredible luck in dragging himself out of depravity, there really is nothing new here. Much of the film is celebrity-spotting, name-dropping, and real-life Where’s Wally scenarios, in which we’re treated to film scenes featuring Radioman that make us go, ‘Oh yeah, I remember seeing him in that but not knowing who he was!’
Radioman is no doubt a fascinating and unique character, but in the film’s relatively short running time it seems like we only skim the surface. Lucky for you readers, we’re interviewing him next week, and will hopefully get to answer at least some of the questions that this charming, but lightweight, documentary raises.