11/05/2012 10:24 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

An Afternoon With Radioman (VIDEO)

Soho, London: The look of distrust on the Soho shop attendant's face was perhaps not entirely unwarranted. A heavily bearded vagrant-looking man, with a radio tied to his body, had walked into his DVD shop and was in the process of manhandling every film cover in the Hammer Horror section. The shopkeeper was not to know he was in the presence of a celebrity. Of sorts.


Radioman, less well known as Craig Castaldo, has been a regular fixture on New York film sets for years. Tom Hanks calls him a "cultural institution," Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep are fans, and there is an uncanny, and not entirely coincidental, similarity between himself and Robin Williams.

After over 100 cameos in movies and television shows, including Mr. Deeds, Godzilla and Elf, he's now playing the lead in his own documentary, produced by Paul Fischer and directed by Mary Kerr.

Radioman's personality resembles a collective of cobbled together characters. The pace in which he tunes in and out of each is exhausting, and appears to be an emotional defence tactic. A self-confessed egomaniac, there is also a lack of confidence that is clearly a hangover, both physical -- he is missing the tips of two of his fingers on his left hand that he wishes not to speak of -- and mental, from his less-happy past. Abuse, alcoholism, homelessness and some time spent in a psychiatric institution add an unavoidable edginess to his other lighter, more playful characters.

When interviewing Radioman, it is advisable to leave your plan and proposed questions at the door. "This is not in your questionnaire," he says, "but I'm going to say it anyway." Mid-interview, he launches into a re-enactment of a scene from the British television show, The Village. "Keep the part in about The Village," he orders, later, "Don't edit that part out." In 40 minutes, we leapt from toying with the idea of stripping down and doing the interview in our birthday suits (Radio's idea), to a discussion of the British paparazzi, then on to his homelessness and, of course, his favourite subject: the movie business.

It's difficult to understand why Radioman has chosen to dedicate his life to becoming what some might describe as a glorified groupie. Cynicism had me wondering if the celebrities he cares so much about really do return the sentiment, or whether their interest in Radioman is motivated by the prospect of favorable PR generated by hugging the homeless. But, he can justify what he does and is bold enough to suggest that the celebrities need him more than he needs them: "I care about them because there is something else there besides what you see, and I kind of bring it out... maybe I'm there as a guardian or mentor or something."

Radioman induces an openness in people, and this has to be his greatest asset. Those who insist on taking themselves too seriously will not get on with him. When asked if he had any plans for the future, the 62-year-old said he would like to see a feature film made about his life with Robin Williams playing him when he is older, and Ben Stiller playing his younger self. Movie execs take note.

Text by Fiona Scott for App now available for Nokia devices from the OVI Store