The star of Netflix's most absurd new documentary, Joseph Maldonado-Passage (better known as Joe Exotic) is one of the most outlandish characters to ever hit the small screen, so it's no surprise that so many celebrities want the chance to play that character themselves. Every actor that wants to play the Tiger King himself in a movie or TV show — like, perhaps, the upcoming limited series starring Kate McKinnon as Carole Baskin — has done a solid job of pitching themselves for the role on social media, which should make it very difficult for casting directors to make their eventual choice.
In Tiger King, Maldonado-Passage describes himself as a "gun-toting gay polygamist redneck," rocks a blond mullet and a wardrobe full of animal prints, and runs a legally questionable zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. The series is ostensibly about his years-long feud with Big Cast Rescue founder Baskin, which resulted in Maldonado-Passage landing a 22-year prison sentence for murder-for-hire and various animal rights violations.
However, over the course of its seven episodes, Tiger King also delves into Maldonado-Passage's two political campaigns, his country music career, and his relationships with his two husbands, John Finlay and Travis Maldonado. (He is currently married to Dillon Passage.) With everyone obsessed with his over-the-top and outlandish life and story, it's no wonder that so many people in Hollywood want the chance to step into Maldonado-Passage's exotic boots onscreen.
Dax Shepard may have been the first actor to throw his hat into the ring to play the outrageous former zookeeper, when he wrote on Twitter on March 25, "If I don't get cast as Joe Exotic in the eventual biopic, Hollywood is broken." However, he immediately faced some competition from comedian Dane Cook, who responded to Shepard's post by declaring that, "I already got asked but I’m sure there is a villain role supporting me we could slot you in."
Despite Cook's confidence, Shepard has quite a few other celebrities behind him, including Justin Long and Saturday Night Live star Mikey Day, who wrote that the Parenthood star was the perfect choice. "I for reals thought that [was you] several times while watching," Day wrote on Twitter, adding, "If I were you, I’d start growing a lockdown mullet immediately, dude." Day also offered up a few other casting suggestions, for other key players in the Tiger King saga. "Maybe a K[risten] Bell cameo as one of Doc Antle’s tiger girls?" he wrote. "[And Dave] Bautista as John Finlay?"
The following day, Oscar winner Edward Norton told Shepard that he, too, was interested in portraying Joe Exotic on the big or small screen sometime in the future. "Um, step aside, pal. You’re way too young and buff and you know it," Norton wrote on Twitter. However, he did have an alternate role for Shepard to consider: "You could probably pull off [Travis] Maldonado still, actually," Norton added. "Wouldn’t that be fun?"
Meanwhile, Jared Leto also used Twitter to throw his hat in the ring for the role of Maldonado-Passage, albeit in a more unexpected way. The Oscar winner hosted a virtual viewing party for his social media followers on Friday, March 27, and even dressed up in his most exotic outfits for the occasion. "#JaredLetoTigerKing," Leto wrote on Twitter, alongside a series of photos of himself rocking a shiny blue and gold shirt, a cowboy hat, and a stuffed tiger.
While fans will likely have to wait to find out who will get to star opposite McKinnon in the upcoming limited series — which is reportedly based on the Joe Exotic podcast, rather than Tiger King — at least casting directors will have plenty of options when it comes time to choose an actor to bring Joe Exotic to the screen.