Netflix’s documentary series Tiger King became the show to watch in coronavirus quarantine, and now, the race to make a scripted show about its subject, private zookeeper/convicted criminal/general eccentric Joe Exotic, is officially on. The latest reported project just locked down ideal casting: Nicolas Cage will play Joe Exotic in a limited series from CBS Television Studios and Imagine Entertainment, according to The Hollywood Reporter, making the actor’s first TV role ever a legendary one.
The new TV series hails from Netflix mockumentary series American Vandal producers, but it’s not based on the Netflix show: Instead, this series is based on a Texas Monthly story published in 2019, before Exotic became the face of the social distancing binge.
Still, no matter what source material this TV show is borrowing from, Exotic is a particularly unique character. He’s the self-proclaimed gay, gun-toting, big animal-loving, music video-making founder of a private zoo where dozens of tigers are on display. Cage, who has worked with the Coen Brothers and David Lynch, and who also screamed about bees in the much-maligned remake of The Wicker Man, can channel Exotic’s special blend of eccentricity as well as his very specific facial hair.
Many actors have thrown their hat in the ring for the part of Exotic, including Ed Norton and Dax Shepard. Exotic reportedly wants Brad Pitt or David Spade to play him. Robert Moor, who hosted the Over My Dead Body podcast about Exotic and Baskin, wants Margot Robbie to be the tiger king.
What’s most fascinating about Exotic — and what makes this story ripe for television — is his relationship to Carole Baskin. Exotic’s mortal enemy is an animal rights activist who operates a “tiger sanctuary” and does everything in her power to shut Exotic’s operation down. Exotic loathes Baskin — and, without spoiling too much of his story, this rivalry is eventually what lands Exotic behind bars.
We don’t know who will play Baskin yet in Cage’s TV series, but another Tiger King series in development based on Over My Dead Body will star Kate McKinnon as Exotic’s rival.