From a 1996 Sports Illustrated article (via the rookie screenwriter Mike Rich) comes ''Radio,'' a true-life take on a high school football coach (Ed Harris) who befriends a mentally challenged African-American man nicknamed Radio (Cuba Gooding Jr.) in the racially charged '60s South. ''It's a movie I can take my [10-year-old] daughter to, which is really nice,'' says Harris. ''There's not a lot of those in my bunch. It's about something positive without being corny.''
Gooding relished the opportunity to play a real person, as he did in 2000's ''Men of Honor'' -- though this time the role required more of a physical transformation. ''The first day of filming, coming out of my trailer, I stayed in character until I got back in the trailer and took my makeup off,'' he says. ''The second day I was comfortable enough to take my prosthetic teeth out and hold a conversation with people. By the fourth week, I had to do some off-camera dialogue, and I would just bring my teeth in a box, looking like Cuba, then put the teeth in and do my dialogue. Because I knew the guy by then.''
But even though Radio himself, now 56, visited the South Carolina set, he couldn’t understand that his life was becoming a movie. ''He doesn’t have that capacity,'' Gooding explains. ''It's just a childlike attitude toward everything. He walked up to me and I was in character and I was like, 'Hey, man! How you doin'?' And he's looking at me going 'Do you know who I am? Do you know who I am? I'm Radio!' And I said, 'Yeah, you are!'''
For Gooding, an Oscar winner for 1996's ''Jerry Maguire,'' ''Radio'' is a chance to prove he's award-worthy again -- but the actor says the challenging role didn't frighten him. ''It's all good, brother,'' he says. ''If I didn't want to get scared, I'd never walk out of the house.''
The Killer Moment ''When Radio graduates in life,'' says Gooding. ''Don't take it too literally, and you'll see.''