Tiger King mania may seem like a distant coronavirus fever dream at this point, but Hollywood has not forgotten our one-time national obsession, and casting for competing Joe Exotic projects is just heating up.
The latest news comes from NBC’s Peacock streaming series. According to Deadline, “Sex and the City” and “Twin Peaks’” vet Kyle MacLachlan has been hired to play Carole Baskin’s husband, Howard Baskin. MacLachlan will join SNL alum Kate McKinnon as big cat lover and rumored murderess Carole Baskin. Actor/director John Cameron Mitchell, best known for creating the off-Broadway Rock musical, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” will play Baskin’s nemesis, Joe Exotic. Dennis Quaid has signed on to play Rick Kirkham, the producer behind a reality show Exotic tried to shop around.
MacLachlan, McKinnon, Quaid, and company will be competing with a separate series from CBS that will reportedly star Nicolas Cage as the flamboyant gay zoo-keeper. Variety reports that the project will be based on the long-form Texas Monthly article, “Joe Exotic: A Dark Journey Into the World of a Man Gone Wild,” by Leif Reigstad. The network promises it will “live in the lion’s den with Joe, explore how he became Joe Exotic, and how he lost himself to a character of his own creation.”
The true-crime serial “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness” hit Netflix at the height of pandemic lockdowns in March of 2020, and quickly became one of the streaming platform’s most successful series to date. It followed the rivalry between exotic animal keeper Joseph Maldonado-Passage, whose stage name is Joe Exotic, and animal rights activist Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue. Through a series of stranger-than-fiction twists, Exotic accused Baskin of murdering her second husband before eventually hiring a hitman to kill her. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison while Baskin went on to compete on “Dancing with the Stars.” Exotic later petitioned former President Trump for a pardon, but his request wasn’t granted.
Daily Wire reviewer, Frank Camp, had this to say about the series:
Sure, the tigers, lions, and bears (oh my) at the G.W. Zoo are fascinating, but the real attraction isn’t the animals, it’s the madcap antics and intense personality of showman/owner Joe Exotic, who drives the documentary’s narrative forward like a freight train, even when the series seems like it might be carrying too much cargo for just one story.
From the very beginning, Exotic’s boiling feud with Big Cat Rescue owner Carole Baskin drives the primary plot of “Tiger King.” Did Exotic hire a hitman to take out Baskin? Does Baskin have any skeletons hidden away in her own closet? Does either really care about the welfare of the animals they claim to fight for…
It all comes to a head in a way that will likely leave viewers conflicted and asking themselves who to stand behind when all is said and done. Can you even choose a side when there isn’t an archetypal “hero” or “villain” in the story? Perhaps that’s the central question the makers of “Tiger King” are asking, eschewing typical true crime trappings, and asking viewers to simply watch as this utterly bizarre story plays out before them.’