We’ve Cast the Inevitable Tiger King Movie. You’re Welcome.
I am so sorry
I’ve spent my day watching Netflix’s Tiger King for no one’s benefit—not even my own. As a lifelong fan of tigers, the show is very hard for me to watch because I don’t like people mistreating these majestic beings, and no matter what Joe Exotic, Doc Antle, Carole Baskin, or the rest feel like they’re doing, they’re not doing right by these animals.
The show, which follows the twisting and turning tale of Joe Exotic ordering a hit on Carole Baskin because of their “big cat feud,” has taken over Twitter while we’ve all been stuck at home. So, naturally, many started to dream of a time when we could go outside again and have decided that we’re going to get a fictionalized movie based on the documentary.
While nothing is confirmed for a movie (Kate McKinnon is set to play Carole Baskin in a television show, though), we’re just having fun, and thus, my dream cast has been born. This is my list, my wish, and I will not be taking suggestions at this time.
While both Jared Leto and Dax Shepard are campaigning for the role, my movie is a bit more of a dramedy, so I’m casting Jared Leto as Joe Exotic. A man who loves a flair for the dramatic (and murder), Exotic is easily the biggest character in the documentary, and who knows, maybe Leto will go so method he’ll miss the entire point of this documentary and try to buy tigers. Maybe one will eat him. Who’s to say?
John Finlay, who was one of Exotic’s husbands until 2014, is a hard one for me, and while I went back and forth from Zac Efron to Jamie Bell and beyond, I’m going to have to cast Tom Hardy as the husband covered in tattoos that say “Joe.”
Because there are no rules in Tiger land (which is Oklahoma, in Joe Exotic’s case), there are multiple wives and husbands and murder going wild in the tiger community, but at least John Finlay left Joe, even if he has those tattoos forever. And having Tom Hardy play him means I’d get to see Hardy’s face without a mask over it, so a bonus for me!
Look, I’m the first one to admit that I love Tim Blake Nelson with my whole heart, but this is a Tim Blake Nelson character if I’ve ever seen one. Rick Kirkham was the producer of a lot of Joe Exotic’s content. But the two had a falling out that came because of Carole Baskin and Exotic’s feud, and I’m not sure if Kirkham burned down Joe Exotic’s studio and all their footage or if Joe Exotic did, but whatever the case may be, the two were close and then suddenly enemies.
I think Tim Blake Nelson is perfect for this because he’s constantly playing cowboy like characters who are sometimes villains (remember Holes?), so why not? Anyway, it’s my dream, and I love Tim Blake Nelson, so congratulations on your supporting actor Academy Award win for playing Rick Kirkman, sir.
Kelci “Saff” Saffery
Kelci “Saff” Saffery is an interesting character. He’s been working with Joe Exotic for quite some time, ended up getting his arm bitten off by one of the animals they had in captivity, and then was back to work like a week later because he loved them so much. I say that Manny Jacinto would do a great job playing Saff, so that’s who I’m going with. Also, there isn’t much to say about Saff OTHER than the fact that he literally lost an arm and said, “Okay then,” and went right back to the tigers.
For a man who worked with Joe Exotic for quite a while, John Reinke seemed to be the most level-headed of the group. Though, please note the tiger run just hanging on his wall, so … maybe not. That begin said, I think that Jeff Bridges could make a character like Reinke work for him. In a sea of interesting (to say the least) humans, Reinke is probably the straight man of the group. Just a man doing his job.
There is a part of the documentary when Kelci is talking about her arm and it cuts to Reinke and he talks about how everyone thinks he lost his legs due to tigers, and he’s like “nope just went zip-lining,” and it’s maybe even wilder than any of the tiger stuff to me. Anyway, Jeff Bridges it is.
Keanu Reeves, it’s time to be a blonde. Maybe I’m just thinking about Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but the vibe that Erik Cowie gives off just yells “a Keanu Reeves character” to me. Cowie worked with Exotic and talked briefly about how they used to all take expired meat to eat because the cats got whatever was left, and honestly, in the grand scheme of this documentary, I just brushed that part of the story off.
I think it would be a return to Keanu Reeves’ younger days, when his roles were quirky and fun and not entirely action-based. It’d be wonderful to see him tackle it, and I also just love Keanu Reeves, so … whatever.
Barbara “Bala” Fisher
So Anna Kendrick is playing Barbara “Bala” Fisher, right? Bala was one of Doc Antle’s wives. She ended up going to his “sanctuary” because she thought she was going to be teaching yoga to tigers and ended up leaving around 2007. She’s one of the few wives who gets to talk (probably because she left), and she gets candid about how Doc Antle would have sex with the women who would go there and how he liked virgins.
Her entire vibe just yelled Anna Kendrick to me the minute that I decided to cast this show into a movie—maybe because she’s fun, energetic, and tiny, but whatever it is, can’t wait to see Anna Kendrick with a dog.
Travis and I went back and forth. One of Joe Exotic’s husbands, who unfortunately passed away, Travis Maldonado is a bright-eyed boy from Southern California, and I went back to Zac Efron AGAIN and still couldn’t, in my right mind, cast him as Travis. So instead, I’m going with Diego Luna for Travis’s facial hair alone.
I’m wildin’ out at this point. I do not care. This is going to be Michael Keaton. Marc Thompson is one of the guards on Joe’s property (because people just want to attack the tiger zoos, I guess) and he is one of the first people to catch the fire that Joe thinks Carole was behind. Let me have Michael Keaton play him. Give that to me, please.
Shirley and Francis Schreibvogel
Joe Exotic’s parents are interesting because his father apparently disowned him, and yet, his mother and father continually bail him out of money problems and get themselves in financial trouble because of it, so who really knows what their relationship is like.
But that’s beside the point. While casting, I wish I could have Kirk Douglas playing Francis Schreibvogel, but alas. Instead, I’m going with Parks and Recreation feels and casting Jim O’Heir (who played Jerry Gergich) and Helen Slayton-Hughes (who played Ethel Beavers) as Francis and Shirley.
Finally, the time for Zac Efron has come. Now, let me explain: Dillon Passage was another husband of Joe Exotic. He was young, fell in love, and ended up becoming his accomplice. He has a face I would trust, though, much like how I feel about Zac Efron’s face, and thus, my casting makes sense.
In my dream movie, Dial is played by Paul Walter Hauser. Joshua Dial was Joe Exotic’s campaign manager (yes, Exotic ran for president and governor, so … lol), and while he’s not a big part, I just feel like Paul Walter Hauser would kill it.
Mike O’Malley, your time has come. This man was supposed to kill Carole Baskin but then did not, and sure, Mike O’Malley is an icon to me, but I think that playing Allen Glover would bring him back into the conversation in a big way. We should all be talking about Mike O’Malley regularly, but since we are not, let me cast him as Glover.
Stephen Root is an actor who has shown his range time and time again, and part of that range, for me, includes playing James Garretson, the man who became an informant for the FBI and got Joe Exotic arrested. He used to work for Joe, turned on him, and is really the reason this documentary probably even got made, so he’s an integral part of the story, and who better to bring him to life than Office Space’s Stephen Root?
Look, Doc Antle is easily Tim Robbins. A man who has this giant reserve in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Doc Antle loves to get young girls to come work for him and make them his wives. Call it whatever you want, but he’s creepy, and the fact that he thinks this is all okay is even more frightening, but Tim Robbins would bring this creepy cat-man to life in a haunting yet beautiful way, and it would truly bring me such joy to see him in my dream cast of Tiger King.
Tim Stark is Ed Harris. I don’t really think I need to explain, but basically, Tim Stark is another cat guy in Indiana because apparently these places are everywhere and I just NEVER heard of them before. Someone who was a friend to both Joe Exotic and Doc Antle at one point, I feel like Ed Harris would really bring hoe his seemingly lackadaisical nature.
The other man in the picture is Jeff Lowe. He’s played by Tobin Bell. I need no explanation either.
All of Doc Antle’s Wives
Doc Antle’s different wives are a mix of Jennifer Lawrence, Olivia Munn, and Mamie Gummer. While they are not really in it in a way where they’re fully realized (probably because of Doc Antle and his refusal to let them be normal human beings, literally not letting them sleep), they still are an integral part of Doc Antle’s story, and I think that having some big names playing them could also help make them individual characters in the movie and show their struggle.
And Doc Antle’s son? Well, that’s Tom Holland! Nicknamed “real-life Tarzan” by monsters, apparently, Kody Antle is, I guess, supposed to be the hot one, so I made him Tom Holland. This is just for me. Oh well.
Kathy Bates was born for a great many roles, but I think Carole Baskin might be her best yet. A woman who started out her reserve for big cats as a way of saving them, she quickly became just as bad as both Joe Exotic and Doc Antle. The woman who supposedly killed her husband and fed him to a tiger (or that’s at least what Joe Exotic believes), Carole is certainly an interesting woman.
She seems sweet, seems like she truly wanted the best for these cats, and then slowly reveala herself, and I truly feel like she’s Annie Wilkes but with cats, hence Kathy Bates is absolutely perfect for this role.
I would love Lauren Ash as my young flashback Carole Baskin, thank you.
Sam Elliot gets his time, too, in the Tiger King movie, but only briefly. Don Lewis was the husband that everyone thinks Carole killed and fed to a tiger. So, he’s there to provide her money but not really in the documentary since he’s … well … somewhere. They think he disappeared, never found a body, but Carole got all his money, so … you decide.
That being said, all the pictures of Carole and Don? Maybe even a flashback? That all goes to the lovely and talented Sam Elliot.
Thank you to Distractify for the comprehensive list of each featured player in the documentary because, let me tell you, there are so many people in this documentary. There are plenty of other faces in the documentary that would be present in my own personal dream film, but for now, here is the main cast and who I would like to see in the roles. Thank you for your time, and watch Tiger King on Netflix so I have someone to talk to. Please?
Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!
—The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]