Radio (2003 film)


"His courage made them champions."
Directed by Mike Tollin
Produced by Herb Gains
Brian Robbins
Mike Tollin
Written by Mike Rich
Starring Cuba Gooding Jr.
Ed Harris
S. Epatha Merkerson
Brent Sexton
Riley Smith
Debra Winger
Alfre Woodard
Music by James Horner
Cinematography Don Burgess
Edited by Chris Lebenzon
Harvey Rosenstock
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • October 24, 2003 (2003-10-24)
Running time
109 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $30 million
Box office $52.3 million

Radio is a 2003 American semi-biographical sports drama film directed by Mike Tollin, and inspired by the 1996 Sports Illustrated article "Someone to Lean On" by Gary Smith.[1] The article and the movie are based on the true story of T. L. Hanna High School football coach Harold Jones (Ed Harris) and a mentally challenged young man, James Robert "Radio" Kennedy (Cuba Gooding Jr.). The film co-stars Debra Winger and Alfre Woodard. It was filmed primarily in Walterboro, South Carolina because its buildings and downtown core still fit the look of the era the film was trying to depict.


James Robert "Radio" Kennedy, an 18-year-old man with mental disabilities, pushes a shopping cart along the streets daily. He is attracted to a high school football team and often passes by their practices. One day, a football flies outside the field and lands near Radio. Radio takes the ball, deaf to the demands to return it by a student athlete on the other side of the fence. Sometime later, the team members tie up Radio and lock him inside the gear shed. The team's coach, Harold Jones, hears the team members throw balls at the shed and goes to comfort Radio. He punishes the team for their actions. Upon meeting Radio on the streets another day, Coach Jones asks Radio to visit and help at training. Coach Jones returns Radio to his home, where he meets Radio's mother. It is revealed that Radio has a brother named Walter, who does not live with them, and that their father died a few years prior.

Coach Jones begins spending more and more time with Radio, which concerns the fathers of many of the team members. One of the fathers in particular, Frank Clay, suggests that the coach should stop associating with Radio as he could be a distraction to his own son's success on the team. Coach Jones resists, and he later reveals to his daughter that this resistance was partially due to a childhood incident in which Jones did not do anything to help a mentally disabled boy who was locked under a house.

While distributing Christmas presents to nearly everyone in the town, Radio is questioned by a police officer as to where he got the presents. The officer, seeing that Radio is unable to communicate properly and unaware of his mentally disabled state, places him under arrest on charges of possession of stolen property and takes him down to the police station. In fact, the presents had been given to Radio by the townspeople. After the officer roughly locks up Radio in a jail cell, he looks for his information. The other officers, taking pity on Radio after seeing him cry, take him into the staff-room to watch a basketball game together. Coach Jones soon arrives, releasing Radio. The offending officer is punished by having to spend the day with Radio to deliver the rest of the presents.

Radio eventually takes classes in the high school, and it is apparent that he never completed a formal education. After struggling, Radio eventually learns to read. Though well-liked by most of the students at school, Radio is still ridiculed by Frank's son Johnny and his friends. On one occasion, Johnny tricks Radio into entering the girls locker room. This triggers an incident with the School Board that puts Radio's ability to attend the high school at risk. However, Radio refuses to tell Coach Jones who told him to do it, leading Jones to say, "You're a better man than me, Radio." Coach Jones eventually figures out that it was Johnny who told Radio to go into the girls locker room, and punishes Johnny for his actions by ordering him to sit out from the basketball team for an indefinite time. After Coach Jones tells Johnny that Radio never uttered a word about who caused the incident, Johnny begins to respect Radio and doubt his father's impressions. Radio's mother dies of a heart attack bringing severe agony to Radio.

The film ends with Radio receiving a high school diploma at the graduation ceremonies, and the principal announcing that he will receive one every year to make him feel like part of the school. It then shows clips of the real life Radio on the football field with the real life Harold Jones.



The film's lead character, Radio, is based on James Robert Effinhimer Kennedy, who was born October 14, 1946 in Anderson, South Carolina. His nickname, Radio, was given to him by townspeople because Kennedy grew up fascinated by radios and because of the radio he carried everywhere he went. He still attends T. L. Hanna High School and helps coach the football team and the basketball team. He is known to ask students before football games, "We gonna get that quarterback?", and say "We gonna win tonight!". ReelSports provided the football and basketball coordination for the film.


Radio received generally unfavorable reviews. On review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 36% "Rotten" rating[2] and holds a score of 38 out of 100 on Metacritic.[3] Common points of criticism included the excessively sentimental screenplay and music as well as the formulaic plot. However, the film found an audience, grossing $52,333,738 with a budget of approximately $30 million.[4] Cuba Gooding Jr. earned a Golden Raspberry Award nomination for Worst Actor for his performance in the film but also an NAACP Image Award for best actor in a motion picture.

Awards and nominations

Award Category Subject Result
Black Reel Awards Best Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. Nominated
CAMIE Awards Theatrical release Todd Garner Won
Michael Tollin Won
Mike Rich Won
Cuba Gooding Jr. Won
Ed Harris Won
Alfre Woodard Won
Riley Smith Won
Brent Sexton Won
S. Epatha Merkerson Won
Sarah Drew Won
ESPY Award Best Sports Movie Nominated
NAACP Image Award Outstanding Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. Won
Supporting Actress Alfre Woodard Won
Golden Raspberry Award Worst Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. Nominated


The soundtrack to Radio was released on October 21, 2003.

1."Eyes Of The Heart (Radio's Song)"  India.Arie4:44
2."We Can Work It Out"  Stevie Wonder3:18
3."That Lady - Pt. 1"  The Isley Brothers3:15
4."I'll Be Around"  The Spinners3:14
5."If You Don't Know Me By Now"  Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes3:29
6."Sha La La (Make Me Happy)"  Al Green2:59
7."We're An American Band"  Grand Funk Railroad3:28
8."China Grove"  The Doobie Brothers3:17
9."Wake Up Everybody (Part 1)"  Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes3:45
10."The Rubberband Man"  The Spinners3:36
11."Be Thankful for What You Got"  William DeVaughn3:28
12."Going In Circles"  The Friends of Distinction4:11
13."Radio's Day"  James Horner featuring vocals by India.Arie4:21
14."Gift of the Ball"  James Horner1:47
15."Learning The Ropes"  James Horner1:55
16."Being Left Behind"  James Horner2:42
17."Resignation"  James Horner4:43
18."Never So Alone"  James Horner featuring vocals by India.Arie7:14
19."Night Game"  James Horner2:41
20."Radio"  Chuck Brodsky4:08
Total length:71:46[5]

See also


  1. Richard Perez-Pena (2008-09-15). "The Sports Whisperer, Probing Psychic Wounds". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-09-23.
  2. "Radio". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2012-09-22.
  3. "Radio Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More". Metacritic. 2003-10-24. Retrieved 2012-09-22.
  4. "Radio (2003)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-09-22.
  5. Radio Soundtrack Filmtracks. Retrieved February 3, 2014
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