Craig Castaldo, nicknamed Radioman for the trademark boom box he wears around his neck, has lived an extraordinary life. As a homeless down-and-out battling with addiction on the mean streets of New York, he offered another bum a swig of his beer. The bum, however, turned out to be Bruce Willis on the set of The Bonfire of the Vanities. Since then, Radioman kicked his addictions and has gone on to become a permanent fixture on the New York film-set circuit.
With more than 100 small roles under his belt, he has ran from the wrath of Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla, been admitted to Shutter Island, made numerous appearances in The Bourne Trilogy, and landed an ongoing cameo on Tina Fey’s 30 Rock. Not only that, he has also become good friends with A-Listers such as Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Tilda Swinton and George Clooney.
Now he is the star of Mary Kerr’s first documentary, for which the fledgling director followed Radioman around as he hopped from film-set to film-set. Don’t Panic sits down with the dynamic duo ahead of the film’s star-studded UK premiere and Q&A tomorrow, which is open to the public and whose proceeds will go to the homelessness and housing charity, Shelter.
Radio, the documentary has been described as a kind of “love-letter” to movie-making. What does the industry mean to you personally? What draws you to it?
Radioman: My mother used to let me watch old films. I was a youngster then, and would sit there at night and watch old black and white movies. I think that’s what turned me on to it. And all the inner workings of the movie industry turn me on! You get so much more out of a film when you watch it being put together. It’s so intricate!
Mary, how did you first get into documentary film-making?
Mary Kerr: I’d worked at casting and at Miramax in production before, and then I went to film school. I just thought it’d be great to pick up a camera and make a film. Then I heard about Radioman and I thought it was such a great story! I actually asked a lot of people I know who made documentaries if they would like to do it. But then eventually Paul [Fischer, the film's producer and Kerr's collaborator] and I thought “Why don’t we just do it?” So we did!
How did you first approach Radioman then?
M: Paul met him on the set of What Just Happened.
R: It was somewhere out in Connecticut. I just went out there on my bike [from New York] and everybody asked “Did you cycle all that way Radio?” I didn’t even know who Pete… I mean Paul… was! Was he one of the PAs that put me on the bus?
M: Yeah! We saw you talking to Spielberg. Paul meekly approached you, because you can be quite an interesting character to approach! If I catch you on a bad day, you can be pretty grumpy!
R: Yeah, I can be! I can be like: “Who the hell are you? Get the fuck away from me!” But Mary is such a pretty little thing (laughs).
So you didn’t need much convincing to get on board with the project then, Radio?
R: With how they explained it I just thought “Ok, let’s do it!” So we did, and we would run around… they would run around…
M: After you! Sometimes you’d cycle off, laughing. We were in Washington, and I wanted a shot of him cycling past the White House. The idea was that Radioman goes everywhere. And you saw I was there trying to get the shot, and you cycled off laughing! I had to chase you screaming “Stop that man!”
You went to Los Angeles to try and get in to the Oscars. You didn’t have much luck, so you watched them back at your hotel room. Why were you a little displeased when Sean Penn won his Oscar for Milk?
R: That mousey fuck! No, sorry, he’s just not nice to his fans and doesn’t sign autographs anymore. He sits there with his cigarette like “No, not doing that today. Not doing that anymore”. He’s a very good actor, but not a friendly guy.
You seem to have met everyone worth knowing in the industry. Is there anybody you would like to meet but haven’t?
R: Most of the ones I really wanted to meet are dead! But I’ve always wanted to meet Christopher Lee, he’s awesome. I grew up watching him, and for me he is the quintessential Dracula. Bela Lugosi just didn’t do it for me. Lee scared the shit out of everybody, with those fangs and the bloody eyes. I mean, he really was Dracula. So, yeah, I’m dying to meet him. I don’t even care if he’s cold to me!
You’ve been in at least 100 films. What was your favourite role to date?
R: Shutter Island! I really thought that role was me, the way I should have been projected, instead of just ‘Radioman’. I thought it was a challenging role, and Scorsese captured me perfectly.
As a pair, you seem to both get on very well. How would you both define the overall experience of shooting? Was it an easy time?
R: No it wasn’t! As Bette Davis would say: “Get ready for a bumpy ride!” Some days I just wouldn’t want to be bothered or annoyed. I’d hang up the phone on Mary, but then I’d feel bad and call her back. She wanted to rerecord the sound or something. Oh, I’ve got to let one go, but don’t worry – I’ll hold it in!
M: Get the Febreeze ready! (both laugh)
What’s next for you both?
M: There are lots of other projects in the pipe-line, but not documentaries. I’ll be producing on a script Paul wrote about the Oliviers, I want to make a cartoon about mice in New York City, and I’d love to one day do a musical!
R: You’ll next see me in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, with Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig.
And lastly, a message from the man himself recorded especially for Don’t Panic readers.