‘If you’re on a first-name basis with the radio, you’ve made it,’ says actor Robin Williams, talking of the subject of this documentary, the sweetly smiling, sometimes ever-so-slightly petulant, wiry-haired Craig Castaldo, aka Radioman. The ultimate hanger-on, Castaldo has made it his business to know about every movie being shot in New York, right down to the last minute detail, (including having a stalker-like knowledge into each stars’ filming schedule).
Loyally camping out in the harsh climate of New York city’s streets, Castaldo has become a permanent fixture on every film set in the Big Apple, together with his trademark radio, which he keeps on a bit of string round his neck.
His first brush with stardom came in 1990. Drunk and finding himself hanging about a New York street, he unwittingly bumps into Bruce Willis during the filming of Bonfire of the Vanities. Mistaking Willis for a down-and-out on account of his acting garb, the two strike up a conversation, Castaldo is invited onto the set, and the stage is set for a slew of cameos in more than 100 films.
Castaldo’s story is fascinating and heartbreaking, and one can only feel slight despair at the story of the lower middle-class boy, close to his mother but regularly beaten by a dominant father, who drinks himself into the gutter. But he got clean after a spell in the psychiatric ward of the city’s Bellevue Hospital and through a succession of bit parts that have come from years of hanging about on film sets he is no longer homeless, (he lives in a cockroach-infested dwelling packed full of video tapes of the stars he so admires).
The film may veer from an unspoken mockery of our subject to the more poignant moments that come from the insights into his own story, and the slew of Hollywood’s great and good who line up to sentimentally sing Castaldo’s praises is absorbing and says more about them than they probably would have liked. And although Castaldo’s only home may be the film set (not every star is willing to play along – James Gandolfini unceremoniously evicts him from his trailer at one point) one still feels that ultimately Radioman has made a success out of being a bit of a nuisance.