You probably wouldn’t know Craig “Radioman” Castaldo by name, but if you’ve seen any major, Manhattan-based television or film production over the past decade or so, chances are you’ve seen his work. Bearded, scrappily dressed, a keen hoarder, this sometime hobo – named for the ghettoblaster he’s tied around his neck to prevent anyone from stealing it while he sleeps – has been adopted by the New York film community as a mascot and occasional walk-on artist; he can most often be found on the fringes of any exterior location shoot, usually helping himself to free sweetmeats from the craft service table.
Such is Castaldo’s physical resemblance to Robin Williams circa The Fisher King that Mary Kerr, the Scottish director of the fond documentary portrait Radioman, has had to recruit the real Williams among her celeb testimonies to prove this isn’t a stunt or wind-up. One of Radioman’s unfailing joys is the intimate and revealing interaction its subject enjoys with the movie A-listers. Shia LaBeouf appears genuinely terrified that Castaldo knows his schedule; Sharon Stone doesn’t know whether to hug him or flee at top speed. Messrs Hanks, Damon and Clooney, on the other hand, are only too happy to shoot the breeze with him; in one surreally droll encounter, a period-garbed Paul Giamatti invites Radioman to throw discarded mozzarella at him.
A kind of trade-off becomes apparent. As one of the few individuals on set who could be said to be maintaining no kind of façade whatsoever, Castaldo keeps his co-stars real and honest, reminding them what it is to show up and put the hours in. In return, he gets a piece of the action, the moviemaking fantasy we all buy into, but also, in the form of the detailed call sheets that find their way into his hands, the structure that has given this once-itinerant life meaning, and kept him off the booze. On set, Radioman enjoys the sense of belonging actors often talk about missing when production is wrapped; his Oscar-time trip to L.A. – where he’s forever on the outside, looking in at the beautiful people from behind paparazzi, minders and locked gates – speaks volumes about the East and West Coasts’ varyingly relaxed attitudes to celebrity culture.
Kerr keeps it light, never pressing her subject too hard on his past, while sprinkling the film with examples of Castaldo’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-‘em appearances in, among others, Godzilla, Zoolander, The Departed and The Bourne Supremacy. There’s one especially telling footnote: Castaldo claims all the movies he’s featured in have made money, and that he may very well have been a contributing factor in this. Given that Kerr found him showing up on the sets of the forgettable R-Pattz vehicle Remember Me and the Kate Hudson dud Something Borrowed, maybe it’s no surprise a closing-credits coda should reveal Castaldo as an increasingly visible presence among the cast of NBC’s 30 Rock. Like any performer worth his salt, Radioman knows television is where it’s at right now.
Radioman opens in selected cinemas from today.