Over the last week, as America has discovered Joe Exotic and his new Netflix docuseries Tiger King, I’ve seen some inspired casting choices for the inevitable movie based on the show… and I’ve seen some terrible ones. The problem with the fantasy casts that I’ve seen is that none of them feel particularly cohesive. Writers just choose actors who look like the wacky people in Tiger King, without any regard to whether those actors would work well together, or if people would even pay to see that movie. Now, if Netflix is as smart as I think it is, the streamer has already locked down the rights to make a two-hour feature film based on Tiger King, so it’s up for debate if this would even be a theatrical play, but for the purpose of this exercise, I want you to imagine it is. Imagine it’s a big summer movie from Universal Pictures, because that’s the kind of movie I have in mind.
As far as casting goes, you have to decide what version of this you want to make. As horrible as animal abuse is, I think the Tiger King movie would have to be played for laughs. It’s clearly a comedy, albeit one with danger, kind of like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. It has to be a little in on the joke, but at the same time, willing to play it straight, which given this cast of characters, might even be funnier. So for the purposes of this article, I want you to imagine we’re making the type of rare studio comedy that can be a global hit. One driven by big stars, and from a director with comedy experience who the industry respects. And really, the director is the key to this whole article, as in all likelihood, they’re the ones signing off on casting. So let’s start there, and then delve into the wild world of Joe Exotic, his arch-nemesis Carole Baskin and more than a dozen other characters, though keep in mind that cuts had to be made, all due respect to Tim Stark and Doc Antle‘s three wives.