doesn't matter how bad your day is going, he comes up and
gives you a hug and says 'I love you' and the bad day is
washed away." - Allison Boozer, 2002 (Teacher of
Special Education, T.L. Hanna High School)
Questioning the Story:
Over what exact period of time does the film's story
real life, Coach Harold Jones first lured Radio onto the
field with a bottle of soda (not a water bottle) in 1964.
The film's story was condensed to take place over the course
of one year from 1976 to 1977. Director Michael Tollin explained,
"What we decided to do was to take a year right in
the middle of this sweeping four decades, and show the convergence
of events that led to Radio becoming an integral part of
society in this small town. We intentionally wanted to be
vague about it because the film is loosely inspired by Radio's
story, which has gone on for so many years and continues
to this day. That gives it a timeless quality and allowed
us to focus more on the development of the relationship
between the two central characters. Rather than make a biography,
I see Radio as a story about two very different men
who are united by their humanity." -SonyPictures.com
Who gave James Robert Kennedy the nickname 'Radio'?
The folks in his hometown gave him this nickname because
of his fascination with the device that he took everywhere
with him since he was a little boy. Each year, coach Harold
Jones buys him a new radio for Christmas. Like in the film,
coach Jones delivers Radio's many Christmas and birthday
presents to him using the bed of his pickup truck.
Did some of the boys on the team really tie Radio up
and lock him in a small storage room next to the field?
No, this likely did not happen. It is however, a variation
on equally cruel pranks that some of the students pulled
on Radio. Perhaps even worse was the real occasion when
a group of kids pulled down Radio's pants and painted his
lower backside with paint thinner, which burned him rather
severely. On another occasion, they told him to pull the
lever on a fire alarm, which resulted in him being hulled
off to jail. -Sports Illustrated
What is really wrong with Radio?
As his mother in the film, actress Sharon Epatha Merkerson,
stated, there is no name for what is wrong with Radio. It
is almost certainly a genetic disorder, because both his
father and his younger brother, Cool Rock (George Allan
Kennedy), share the same defect. Cool Rock, who is two years
younger than Radio and shares a bedroom with him, still
can't be understood when he attempts to speak. Although,
unlike Radio, he hasn't been loved and cared for by an entire
school for over 30 years.
the film, is coach Jones' story about the boy kept locked
under a house true?
an emotional moment in the film, coach Harold Jones (Ed
Harris) told his daughter, Mary Helen, about a mentally
handicapped young boy who was kept locked in an open area
under a house. He said that he would see the boy when he
was delivering newspapers many years earlier. In the "making
of the film" on the Radio DVD, screenwriter Mike Rich
explained that he and coach Jones had a conversation about
the boy. Director Michael Tollin also stated on the DVD
that it was in fact true, and that it took coach Jones years
to open up about what he had witnessed.
So, what made coach Harold Jones invite Radio into his
life and into the lives of those at T.L. Hanna?
When coach Jones was growing up in Anderson, S.C., a mentally
disabled boy lived across the street. Jones defended the
boy from anyone who picked on him. Also, while working at
his grandfather's theater, it was Jones who would sneak
in a retarded man and give him a box of popcorn. -Sports
Who has looked out for Radio's health and physical well
the Sports Illustrated article "Someone to Lean On", assistant coach Honeycutt
remarked, "Radio would be dead by now if not for coach
It was coach Jones who took Radio to the doctor every year,
modifying Radio's diet when his blood pressure and cholesterol
readings were far too high, in addition to making sure his
medical and dental bills were paid.
Radio really get left behind for a road game, having to
stand and watch as the bus pulled away?
This did happen. It was in 1974 when coach Jones was only
an assistant (he did not make head coach of varsity until
the 1980s). However, it wasn't the principal who forbid
him from going. It was coach Fraser, the head coach then,
who decided that the bus was too crowded for Radio to make
the journey to Northwestern High. The team lost the game
27-20. After that day, Radio was taken to every game, and
the T.L. Hanna Yellow Jackets went all the way to the state
final that year. -Sports Illustrated
When did Radio's mother actually pass away in real life?
the depiction of the day that Radio's mother died is accurate,
in real life she did not pass away until August of 1994.
Upset with grief, Radio smashed two holes in a wall of his
house. Police came to restrain him. With the absence of
his mother, Radio would have no one to be with him in the
evenings. Fortunately, Radio's brother Walter and his wife
Pat began taking care of him after school. Hanna and coach
Jones did the rest. -Sports Illustrated
Did coach Harold Jones really quit coaching football
to spend more time with his family?
This is more than likely an element of fiction created to
emphasize Radio's effect on the coach in the film. In reality,
I found no record of coach Harold Jones quitting
coaching for any period of time. In 1998, principal Mike Sams asked
the athletic director and head football coach of 14 years
to step down from his position. "I just decided after
looking at everything over the last couple of years that
it was time to go in a different direction," said Sams.
Coach Jones, upset by the news, responded by saying, "I
was asked to resign or retire, and I refused, so I guess
you have to say I was fired." Sams said that they wanted
to hire someone who had more experience dealing with other
How did Cuba Gooding Jr. feel about playing Radio?
viewing footage of the real Radio, Cuba Gooding Jr. made
the following observance, "The man has an abundance
of energy, but different from the kind of energy I had in
movies like Jerry Maguire. In a very open and uncensored
way, he demonstrated a great joy in being alive, and that
pleasure was infectious to all those around him. I couldn't
wait to get into that mindset."
What inspired director Michael Tollin to turn the story
of Radio into a feature film?
While on a ski vacation in Aspen, Colorado in 1996, director/producer
Michael Tollin picked up an issue of Sports Illustrated,
in which he read Gary Smith's article on James Robert Kennedy
(Radio) titled "Someone to Lean On."
It was the springboard that inspired him to obtain the rights
and to begin working on getting a film version to the screen.
Perhaps what encouraged him most was his previous work with
the mentally challenged. In 1990, Michael Tollin led a group
of 12 Special Olympians on a trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro, and
through the expedition, he came to fully realize the remarkable
potential of such individuals. Tollin, a sports enthusiast,
was also nominated for an Academy Award for his documentary
Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream, for which he won a
Peabody Award. He has created other sports-themed films,
including Hardball and Varsity Blues. -SonyPictures.com
to Learn More:
RADIO / ChasingtheFrog's
Hanna High School Web Site
Radio and Coach Jones Official Site
Sony Pictures Radio Movie Site
the Radio Movie Trailer: