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Actors We Want To See In A Tiger King Movie

Tiger King has taken the world by storm. Joe Exotic's epic adventures have gone from the booming metropolis of Wynnewood, Oklahoma, population: 2,212, to living rooms around the world. At a time when nobody can seem to agree on anything, people of all ages, races, and, ahem, stripes, have united around this show, with Netflix's 167 million subscribers choosing Tiger King above all others. The series has amazed, baffled, horrified, and entertained pretty much everyone who has seen it since premiering on March 20, 2020. The only thing we didn't like about Tiger King, in fact, is that it had to end. We need more "Doctor" Bhagavan Antle, Carole Baskin, and especially Joe Exotic, the Tiger King himself.

 So how about a Tiger King movie? We're not the only ones who feel this way. Movie stars have publicly Twitter-battled for the opportunity to star in a movie based on this unbelievable story. Just think about many ways a Tiger King movie could go. How about a Danny McBride spoof? Or perhaps a Coen Brothers crime caper? And above all: Who should star in this inevitable Oscar frontrunner? Here are actors we want to see in a Tiger King movie.

Christian Bale could disappear into the role of "Doc" Antle

Nobody is as crazy as Christian Bale, at least not when it comes to modifying his body like a kid with Play-Doh. Bale is the guy who shed 60 pounds eating nothing but apples to hit a skin-and-bones 120 pounds in The Machinist, got buff in less than six months to play Batman, and packed on the pounds to play former Vice President Dick Cheney in Vice. He would have no problem doing whatever it takes to play Mahamayavi Bhagavan "Doc" Antle. 

"Doc" Antle, who got his doctorate in "mystical science," is the founder and director of The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S.) in South Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The role he presents is a juicy one, including multiple girlfriends, a background in Arizona cattle ranching, and a history in Hollywood. The Academy Award-winning Bale could disappear into this human being and have a blast doing it. "Doc" Antle is like the id of Bruce Wayne, Dick Cheney, and Irving Rosenfeld, (the real-life character Bale plays in American Hustle) all rolled into one insane package. Bale playing this exotic animal-owning, self-worshiping, Southern cult leader is something that must happen.

Julianne Moore should play the Tiger Queen

Kate McKinnon might be the smartest person in show business. Before Tiger King dominated the cultural dialogue, McKinnon signed up to play Joe Exotic's arch-nemesis Carole Baskin in a limited series. While we expect McKinnon to nail this part, we have a different actor in mind for the eccentric founder and CEO of Tampa, Florida-based Big Cat Rescue – Julianne Moore.

While Baskin's mission to take in big cats abandoned by private zoos is noble, there's more to her than meets the eye. For instance, the mysterious disappearance of her late husband, multimillionaire Don Lewis, who Baskin is rumored to have fed to her pet tigers. Even if that rumor isn't true, it's easy to see that beneath Baskin's Earth Mother exterior is a thin thread of sanity just waiting to snap. Julianne Moore would eat this role up like a big cat with a carcass. Nobody plays a driven person clinging to what remains of their conscience better than the Academy Award-winning actress. Just watch Map To The Stars if you don't believe us. Moore is one of America's most versatile actors and can do pretty much anything, so we'd love to see her completely uninhibited and uncaged as Carole Baskin, playing the Tiger Queen like a modern-day, leopard print-wearing Norma Desmond.

Russell Crowe can sink so Lowe

Jeff Lowe might be the most unscrupulous person on Tiger King, and in this parade of reprobates, that's truly saying something. Lowe is a nouveau-riche, Las Vegas biker thug — a persona he carefully crafted over the course of years. With weather-worn skin as tough as his black leather jackets, Lowe seems like a guy who'd slit your throat just as soon as look at you. Alas, as Joe Exotic discovers too late, it's all a ruse. Lowe's neither tough nor wealthy, just a wannabe Wild One clever enough to spot the perfect victim in Joe Exotic. A fool and his tigers are soon parted, and Lowe steals Exotic's zoo right from under him — and maybe even frames him for murder.

It's juicy melodrama coated with sleaze from the Las Vegas Strip that somehow found its way into the sticks of rural Oklahoma. Academy Award-winner Russell Crowe wouldn't just play the role — he'd sink his teeth into it. Though he became famous for his traditional leading man roles, Crowe consistently reminds us why he's one of our greatest living actors by playing a diverse selection of slime-balls in pics like Body of Lies and The Loudest Voice. Crowe's perfect for Lowe, not only because he can play a tough guy — he can play a guy who is playing a tough guy.

Ben Mendelsohn would surprise as Howard Baskin

Howard Baskin may be the most surprising character in Tiger King. Baskin starts the film at the end of Carole Baskin's leash, but becomes a formidable foe to Joe Exotic in his own right. Now, Baskin might look like he'd rather be filing taxes or collecting stamps than wearing leopard-printed suits at fur-themed fundraisers to support his wife's single-minded obsession. But as the series progresses, we discover that Baskin is more than the bespectacled Sancho Panza to Carole Baskin's tiger-striped Don Quixote — he's a ruthlessly clever second-in-command who possesses Game of Thrones-level cunning. For a man whose wife is accused of feeding her second husband to tigers and who is herself the victim of a murder-for-hire plot, Baskin seems startlingly at ease ... like the mastermind behind a plan nobody else is clever enough to notice. 

Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn would be perfect for the part. If anything, Mendelsohn would need to scale back his performance, as Baskin's apparent meekness is the key to his power. From The Dark Knight Rises to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Mendelsohn has been at his best playing baddies in over their heads. We'd love to see him play a man much more competent and capable than any of us may realize.

Scott Glenn should play the unscrupulous TV producer

Inside Edition alum Rick Kirkham is exactly what you'd expect from a tabloid news journalist. With a coal-black fedora, gravelly voice, bottomless cup of coffee, and lit cigarette dangling from his mouth, Kirkham comes off like a cross between Dale Gribble and Hunter S. Thompson, a paranoid addict scared sober because he knows where the bodies are buried. Kirkham's also the subject of his own documentary, the acclaimed Junkie, which paints Kirkham as a guy who never saw a dumpster fire he didn't want to film. And there is no dumpster fire better than Joe Exotic. While Kirkham was hired by Joe to oversee the JoeExoticTV YouTube series, Kirkham has his own agenda, recording footage for a reality TV show he wanted to sell to networks. Naive exhibitionist that he is, Joe Exotic let his would-be chronicler do it, without knowing he'd signed a contract that granted Kirkham exclusive rights to the footage. 

To play a tabloid TV producer with more temerity than scruples, we'd cast The Silence of the Lambs actor Scott Glenn. While the 81-year old Glenn is much older than the 61-year old Kirkham, age is just a number when it comes to playing a man who is more persona than person. Glenn has built a multi-decade career playing calculating men with ice water in their veins. He'd be the perfect friend-turned-foil for Joe Exotic.

Michael Rooker should go toe-to-toe with the Tiger King

Every great villain needs their henchman, and Jeff Lowe's is Allen Glover, his longtime friend and confidant. Glover is hired by Lowe to work at Joe Exotic's zoo after Lowe took over, and quickly makes an enemy of the flamboyant former owner when Glover makes clear that he works for Lowe, not Joe. Yet despite being enemies, we are led to believe that Exotic ended up hiring Glover to drive cross country to Florida and kill Carole Baskin for a bargain rate of $3000 — less than you'd pay for a high-end mattress. By his own admission, Glover chickened out on his assassination attempt, showing that this cold-blooded killer might not actually be as vicious as he seems.

Much like Lowe, Glover's stone-cold persona is largely manufactured, and demands a skilled actor who can play a brute with the eye of the tiger, but the soul of a tabby cat. We like Michael Rooker for this role. One of the most sought-after character performers working today, the Alabama-born actor has the intimidating good 'ol boy persona down pat, but can still show vulnerability beneath a tough exterior. Rooker has taken on the Guardians of the Galaxy. We'd love to see him go toe-to-toe with the Tiger King.

Val Kilmer would be meme-worthy as James Garretson

James Garretson is a strip club impresario turned FBI informant whose love of water sports created the most meme-worthy moment of Tiger King. Garretson majestically riding the waves has blown through our culture like the wind flowing through his shoulder-length skullet. Garretson fancies himself a playboy, but comes across like a wannabe Larry Flynt — which makes this a part Woody Harrelson would slay, given he nearly won an Oscar for playing the real one. However, we have another actor in mind for the part: Val Kilmer

There was a time the guy from Top Gun and Batman Forever looked like he could have been Garretson's real-life cousin. Kilmer has since lost a lot of weight, and since we wouldn't want to see him get unhealthy for any role (he isn't Christian Bale), it's a good thing makeup has come a long way. But it's not Kilmer's BMI that should earn him the part of James Garretson, it's his talent. Accepted into the prestigious Juilliard School at just 17, Kilmer was once one of the best actors of his generation, which is really saying something considering he climbed the ranks alongside Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, and Robert Downey Jr. The scene-stealing star of The Doors and Tombstone saw his career stall due to him being difficult to work with, but an actor of his caliber demands a comeback. Kilmer playing Garretson wouldn't just be meme-worthy; it'd be Oscar-worthy.

Travis is a star-making opportunity for this Stranger Things actor

Travis Maldonado is the most tragic figure in Tiger King. The third of Joe Exotic's four husbands, Travis married the 50-something Exotic when he was just 18, and lived in a polygamous relationship alongside Joe's other husband, John Finlay. Travis was so addicted to shooting meth and guns he accidentally shot himself. Travis' tragic death was recorded off-screen by the zoo's security cam, which captured the horrified reaction of Joshua Dial, the campaign manager for Exotic's failed run for Oklahoma's Governor. This chilling scene is perhaps the most shocking moment in a docu-series that delivers dozens of them. 

James Franco or Adam Driver could be perfect for Travis, but from this current crop of young actors, Joe Keery should play the part. On Stranger Things, Keery elevates the one-note, meat-headed jock Steve Harrington into a true villain, only to catch us completely off-guard and have us actually rooting for the lovable lunk by season two. It's a masterful transformation you don't notice until it's already happened. Playing Travis is a star-making opportunity for any young actor. Joe Keery has what it takes to steal the show.

Jared Leto could nab a second Oscar as Exotic's second husband

Jared Leto has made it clear which part he prizes: Joe Exotic. Leto even dressed up as Exotic, complete with straw cowboy hat, sparkling Western-style shirt and stuffed tiger, and live-tweeted the documentary. We would 100% be okay with Leto playing Exotic, though we have another role in mind — Joe's second husband, John Finlay. While Finlay doesn't meet the same grisly fate as Joe's third husband Travis (or perhaps Carole's second husband, Don Lewis), Finlay's story is still tragic. Finlay started as Joe Exotic's backwoods, pretty-boy trophy husband, only to descend into addiction and squalor. 

Leto's performance as a pretty boy whose drug addiction is horrifyingly chronicled in Requiem For a Dream assures us he could get in John Finlay's head, while his Oscar-winning role in Dallas Buyers Club shows he has no vanity and is truly fearless in his performances. Yes, Leto's commitment to doing whatever it takes for a part has had a few notable missteps, from the Oscar-baity Chapter 27 to his cringey take on The Joker in Suicide Squad. But with the right script, director, and cast, Leto could score a second Oscar as Exotic's second husband.

Matthew McConaughey has the chops to be Joe's right-hand man

John Reinke is Joe Exotic's longtime zoo manager, best friend, and perhaps the only person at the end of the series to still support the fallen Tiger King. Reinke looks genuinely pained by Exotic's fate, and he almost mirrors Joe's real-life prison with one of his own making, leaving his wife and abandoning his old life for one of solitude in a small-town Oklahoma trailer park. Though we're not sure what he might have done during his lengthy stint working for the unscrupulous Joe Exotic, Reinke is one of a small few sympathetic people to emerge from this story. 

Reinke demands an actor of the highest caliber. We recommend casting Academy Award-winner Matthew McConaughey. Nailing Reinke's thick accent won't be a problem for the Texas-born actor, for one thing. And despite landing the coveted prize of People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" in 2005, looking the part won't be too difficult for him either. McConaughey dropped down to skin, bones, and mustache to play AIDS-patient Ron Woodruff in Dallas Buyers Club, as well as Rustin Cohle in True Detective, two characters that look like Reinke's half-brothers. We also trust McConaughey would have no problem taking a supporting role, as he's stolen the show twice playing supporting parts in Tropic Thunder and The Wolf of Wall Street.

Only one man is crazy enough to do Joe Exotic justice

Joe Exotic is the ringmaster of his own carnival of chaos, a diamond-studded, tiger-striped Charles Foster Kane who can't stop his world from burning to the ground because he so craves the attention it brings him. Any actor would kill to play this part. Only one should: Tom Cruise

Surprised? While it sounds like a hot take, Tom Cruise as Joe Exotic makes perfect sense. Joe Exotic gives Tom Cruise a chance to disappear into a person whose obsessive personality is uncomfortably similar to his own. Remember, this is the guy who jumped like a child on Oprah's couch, and strapped himself to an Airbus A400M more than 1,000 feet in the air in Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation. Dude is nuts, and willing to do anything for our attention ... just like Joe Exotic. He's also an underrated actor, with three Oscar noms but zero wins. While he loves playing the Tom Cruise hero® — not unlike Exotic adopting his own self-created persona — Cruise has played against type and shown his chops in Magnolia and Born On The Fourth of July. Cruise was willing to make a fool of himself for laughs in Tropic Thunder, and play a delusional rock star in Rock Of Ages. One American pop culture icon deserves another. So Tom Cruise should play Joe Exotic.