Ever since Netflix released its newest documentary series, Tiger King, on March 20, audiences can't seem to get enough of the completely wild story of Joe Maldonado-Passage — better known as Joe Exotic — and the feud with Carole Baskin that eventually landed him in prison. It's only a matter of time before Hollywood turns that obsession into a TV series or movie. So, to get a head start, here's a dream cast for a Tiger King movie adaptation, just to kick things off.
While most people have only learned about Joe Exotic and his former zoo, the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Park in Oklahoma, through the Netflix documentary, a limited series based on his story has actually been in the works since November. That series, which is based on the Joe Exotic: Tiger King podcast from Wondery, is still in development, but on March 27, Deadline reported that Kate McKinnon had signed on to produce the show and to play Carole Baskin.
Baskin, an animal rights activist and owner of the Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida, was in a years-long feud with Maldonado-Passage that culminated in his 2018 arrest, after he allegedly paid someone to kill her. (Maldonado-Passage is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence for murder-for-hire and various animal rights violations.) However, with so many outrageous characters involved in Maldonado-Passage's life, there are plenty of opportunities for actors to flex their muscles and bring this wild story to the screen once more. Here are our picks:
Jared Leto as Joe Exotic
There are quite a few actors who have already expressed interest in playing Joe Exotic on the small (or big) screen, including Dax Shepard, Edward Norton, and Dane Cook. However, Leto has proven he can transform himself into the self-proclaimed "gun-toting gay polygamist redneck. Plus, he already owns some outlandish, Joe-esque outfits, so all he really needs is a blonde mullet and an eyebrow piercing.
Jennifer Coolidge as Carole Baskin
Yes, McKinnon is already set to play Baskin in an upcoming limited series, but if casting directors are looking for another option for a different Tiger King project, comedic powerhouse Coolidge makes perfect sense. The role requires someone blonde and slightly kooky, who looks great in animal print — all of which basically screams Coolidge.
Stephen Merchant as Howard Baskin
Since Tiger King viewers began suggesting actors to star in a potential adaptation, there has been a swelling of support for Merchant to play Howard Baskin, Carole's third husband and co-owner of the Big Cat Rescue. While he doesn't play a large role in the series, Howard made a big impression on fans with his awkward, doting personality and habit of serenading his wife in their garden. In other words, it's a role Merchant was born to play.
Pete Davidson as Travis Maldonado
Maldonado-Passage's late husband, Travis Maldonado, was just 19 when he met the zookeeper, and his short life was, according to the docuseries, tragically marked by substance abuse and depression. Davidson's Saturday Night Live character Chad proves he can play the more boyish, innocent side of Travis, but he's also been open about his own struggles with mental illness and substance abuse, which he'll likely be able to bring to the screen in a moving way.
Tom Hardy as John Finlay
While it might be hard to imagine Hardy as anything other than a dapper heartthrob, the actor loves to transform for his roles, and Maldonado-Passage's gruff, tattooed husband is the perfect role for him to showcase a different side of himself. Besides, it's it extremely easy to picture Hardy with a whole lot of scruff shooting a pink camo-covered gun?
John C. Reilly as Doc Antle
Bhagavan "Doc" Antle is the owner of the Myrtle Beach Safari in South Carolina who appears throughout the documentary to provide context on the exotic animal community. However, the second episode of the show features a look at Antle's facility and the alleged "cult-like" behaviors used to recruit young women to work with the cats. Reilly is an Oscar-nominated actor who has the ability to play slapstick comedy as well as intense drama, so he would be a perfect choice to showcase all sides of Doc Antle onscreen.
Tim McGraw as Jeff Lowe
Yes, McGraw is best known for his decades-long country music career, but he's also an actor — and a dead ringer for Jeff Lowe, the businessman who bought Joe Exotic's zoo in order to help him out of some financial trouble. However, in the second half of the series, Lowe ends up playing a key role in building a legal case against Maldonado-Passage, and frankly, it'd be exciting to see McGraw play such complicated role.
Katherine McNamara as Lauren Lowe
Lowe's wife, Lauren, doesn't play a major role in Tiger King, but she is right by her husband's side during almost all of his appearances onscreen, and is apparently involved with his business dealings, including the new zoo they're building in Oklahoma. McNamara is perfect for the role of Lauren, the spunky red head who stands by her man and loves exotic cats.
Paul Walter Hauser as James Garretson
James Garretson is a business owner who invested in Maldonado-Passage's facility — and also became an FBI informant and helped the government build their murder-for-hire case against the outrageous zookeeper. Garretson's a controversial figure in the documentary, and it might be the perfect role to help catapult I, Tonya and Richard Jewell star into mainstream stardom, where he belongs.
Michael Keaton as Allen Glover
Despite all of the various (and absurd) detours that the documentary takes, Tiger King is about Maldonado-Passage's murder-for-hire arrest and conviction. The zookeeper allegedly paid Allen Glover, an associate of Jeff Lowe who worked at the zoo and had a criminal past, to kill Baskin, although whether or not a proper hit was ordered is still up for debate. However, casting couldn't be clearer: Keaton, who will bring both menace and pathos to the role in brilliant fashion.
Michael Rooker as Tim Stark
Tim Stark is another zookeeper who, very memorably, was interviewed with a pet monkey on his lap and spent some time working with Lowe on the revamped zoo. He eventually dissolved their partnership and left Lowe — and hit the road with his beloved monkey — but he made a major impression during his short time onscreen. Guardians of the Galaxy star Rooker is the only logical choice for such a wild, character-driven role.
While it's still unclear when McKinnon's Joe Exotic series will premiere on the small screen — or if Hollywood will make another series or movie based on his story — the response to Tiger King proves that it's full of incredible roles for actors looking for a challenge. And we would like to see it.