The Real Life Tiger King Cast Reveals Their Movie Cast Picks


There seems to be a new chapter in the Tiger King saga every day, from a “sequel” series in the works to a litany of filed lawsuits, requested pardons, and reopened investigations. But despite all the latest developments, including a surprise “after show” episode on Netflix in which actor/comedian Joel McHale interviewed the stars of the sensational docuseries, fan interest remains rabid. Which leads us, of course, to the front doors (and heavy pockets) of Hollywood.

It’s still unclear how many scripted Tiger King projects are officially in the works. (There appears to be a number of them.) Kate McKinnon of SNL fame is set to star as Big Cat Rescue owner Carole Baskin in a limited series based on the Wondery podcast Joe Exotic: Tiger King, but this was in development months before Netflix released its series in March.

On April 6, Rob Lowe got involved, posting an Instagram photo of himself dressed in a Joe Exotic get-up, complete with blonde hair and a gun holster. He wrote: “Rob Exotic. UPDATE: Ryan Murphy and I will be developing our version of this insane story. Stay tuned!”

Though most of Murphy’s current projects revolve around TV (including but not limited to American Horror Story, Pose, and Hollywood), he’s also worked on film projects including Eat Pray Love and The Prom, coming soon to Netflix. It’s unclear whether Murphy and Lowe are working on a series or movie.

To add fuel to the frenzy, The Hollywood Reporter reported in early May that Nicolas Cage would star as Exotic in a new eight-episode scripted series from CBS Television Studios and Imagine Entertainment. This version will be based around a 2019 New York magazine feature chronicling Exotic’s eccentric history.

So it’s not yet obvious how many versions of the breeder-turned-convict will be seeing in the near future. But that hasn’t stopped the Tiger King cast from psyching themselves up about celebs donning wigs and cargo pants in their name. In the Netflix after-show episode, titled The Tiger King and I, McHale asked cast members who they’d prefer to play them on the big screen. Mixing their picks with a few selections of our own, ELLE.com has assembled a dream cast for the many scripted retellings of this stranger-than-fiction story.

Joe Exotic

Netflix/Getty

Rob Lowe and Nic Cage might both be stepping into the shoes of the exotic-animal breeder, but if Joe has anything to say about it, a different Hollywood A-lister will play his part. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Joe would like Brad Pitt or “Joe Dirt” (i.e. David Spade) to wear his branded caps and sequined shirts. Other proposed actors include Edward Norton, Dax Shephard, and Michael Keaton.

Oh, and according to People, Robert Moor, the host of the Joe Exotic: Tiger King podcast thinks Margot Robbie—of all people—should gender-flip the role. Because she’s a good actress? Sure, Robert. We’ll roll with it.

Carole Baskin

Netflix/Getty

Kate McKinnon is already set to play our favorite cool cat in her own upcoming series, but we have no clue who Murphy has in mind to play her, nor if Baskin will make an appearance beside Cage. To make things more complicated, Baskin seems to have zero desire to see herself onscreen again. (She’s been vocal about her frustration and disappointment with Tiger King.) Still, someone has to wear the (animal-print) pants around here, and fans are volleying for Lisa Kudrow, Patricia Clarkson, and Shelley Long. Personally, we think this is the perfect opportunity for Kudrow to return to the flower crown.

Howard Baskin

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Steve Buscemi’s name has drifted in and out of several mock casts for Tiger King on Twitter, but our vote is for him to play Carole’s kind-eyed, Camelot-singing, ever-devoted husband Howard. He’d strike the perfect balance between goofy and sweet; just don’t picture him in the caveman outfit. No actor deserves that.

Doc Antle

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Arguably one of the most unsettling characters in the show, Doc Antle has been quiet about who might bear his name in a biopic. Will Ferrell seems like a shoe-in for the role—can you imagine how naturally he’d rock that soul patch?—but Tim Robbins and Matt Damon could also bring star power to the safari owner.

Jeff Lowe

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The man now running Joe Exotic’s Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, who may or may not have been wrapped up in the murder-for-hire plot, will require an actor with grit. Might we suggest—as some already have—Sean Penn? He’s got the right look, and we know he can match Lowe’s rugged bad boy bravado. Unfortunately, there’s no word yet on whether his baby girl or her (ugh) “hot nanny” would get a role in a miniseries or biopic.

Lauren Lowe

Getty/Netflix

In an interview with RADIO.com Channel Q’s The Morning Beat, Jeff’s wife, Lauren, revealed she’d love for Isla Fisher to play her in a biopic. (With Fisher’s bright red locks, we can definitely see it.) Jeff countered with, “If Isla Fisher’s gonna be Lauren, then I wanna play Jeff.” As in, himself. Classy as always.

Erik Cowie

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Bill Hader. Sorry, this is not a question. Erik Cowie, Joe’s former head zookeeper, deserves an actor with not only extraordinary range, but the ability to pull off an impressive wig. No one knows how to mix bizarro comedy with dark realism like Barry star Hader, which makes him a perfect fit for the Tiger King cast.

John Finlay

Netflix/Getty

Joe’s former husband is not only rocking a new set of teeth, but he has thoughts on who should play him in an adaptation. He revealed to CNN that he’d prefer Shia LaBeouf or Channing Tatum. He must have an eye for celebrity doppelgangers, because some fans already suggested LaBeouf for the role. We can’t help but agree.

John Reinke

Netflix/Getty

Former G.W. Zoo manager Reinke revealed to McHale in The Tiger King and I that he has his sights set on Matthew McConaughey to play him. Some say there is a resemblance, though I’m not sure I see it. But I have to give Reinke credit for dreaming big. McConaughey has a serious reputation for tackling unusual roles with finesse, so we have no doubt he could bring drama and levity in equal measure to a Tiger King production.

Saff Saffery

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Saff, the former zoo worker who lost an arm to one of the tigers, has a very specific actor in mind to recreate his life: Brandon Baker, the face behind the 1999 Disney Channel Original Movie Johnny Tsunami. I am very much in favor of bringing all our Disney Channel favorites back for Hollywood stardom.

Rick Kirkham

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“I think the one person that’s been brought up is Billy Bob Thornton,” Rick Kirham told McHale during The Tiger King and I. And Kirkham approves of the fan casting, given Thorton’s penchant for hats. But while Kirkham surely knows himself better than I do, I can’t help thinking Ed Harris deserves a spot on the roster. The man behind Westworld’s black-clad cowboy would make for a riveting, complex Kirkham.

Joshua Dial

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Joe Exotic’s libertarian campaign manager—truly one of the most under-appreciated characters of the bunch—might wish to wash his hands of the G.W. Zoo story. But if a film launches into production, we doubt Dial will go missing from the line-up. In that case, he’ll need an actor like Josh Gad or Clark Duke to organize Joe’s gubernatorial and presidential races. Fans seem to be split between Gad and Duke, but as long as the chosen actor thinks this whole thing is bananas, he’ll match Dial’s attitude perfectly.

Dillon Passage

Netflix/Getty

Joe’s current husband, Dillon Passage, might be waiting for Joe to come home from prison, but in the meantime, he seems to have brainstormed who should play him in a film. He told PEOPLE, “Zac Efron.” As if there were ever any question.





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