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Radio (2003)
Starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Ed Harris, Debra Winger, Alfre Woodard
based on the December 16, 1996 Sports Illustrated Article "Someone to Lean On" by Gary Smith
Reel Face: Real Face:
Cuba Gooding Jr. Cuba Gooding
2, 1968
The Bronx,
New York, USA
James Robert Kennedy (Radio) James Robert
Kennedy (Radio)

Born: October
14, 1946
Anderson, South
Carolina, USA
Ed Harris Ed Harris
November 28,
New Jersey,
Harold Jones Harold Jones
Born: ?
Birthplace: ?

"It 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 take place?
RadioIn 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."

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.

In the film, is coach Jones' story about the boy kept locked under a house true?
During 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 Illustrated

Who has looked out for Radio's health and physical well being?
Radio and HoneycuttIn the Sports Illustrated article "Someone to Lean On", assistant coach Honeycutt remarked, "Radio would be dead by now if not for coach Jones
." 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.

Did 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?
Radio's roomAlthough 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 sports.

How did Cuba Gooding Jr. feel about playing Radio?
RadioAfter 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.

Link to Learn More:
RADIO / ChasingtheFrog's Review
T.L. Hanna High School Web Site
Radio and Coach Jones Official Site
Official Sony Pictures Radio Movie Site

Watch the Radio Movie Trailer:

Radio movie trailer



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