Actors like Dax Shepard and Edward Norton have expressed interest in playing the eccentric former zookeeper Joe Exotic

By Benjamin VanHoose
April 02, 2020 10:53 AM
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Attention casting directors — Joe Exotic has spoken!

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday, Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin, the filmmakers behind the wild Netflix docuseries Tiger King, revealed that disgraced zookeeper Joseph Maldonado-Passage (aka Joe Exotic) wants either Brad Pitt or David Spade to portray him in a scripted take on his life story.

But not just any David Spade. Maldonado-Passage, 57, specifically requested circa-2001-Joe-Dirt David Spade, mullet and all.

“He would like Brad Pitt or David Spade to play him,” said Chaiklin, adding, “He doesn’t refer to David Spade as David Spade — he refers to him as ‘Joe Dirt.'”

Though Maldonado-Passage hasn’t seen the seven-part series yet (he was sentenced to 22 years in prison after being convicted of a murder-for-higher plot among other charges), the former Oklahoma tiger breeder is aware of his newfound spotlight.

“He’s in jail, so he can’t necessarily watch it, but once the show dropped he was getting hundreds and hundreds of emails to his jail mail, and he was ecstatic,” his husband Dillon Passage told Andy Cohen on Wednesday.

Brad Pitt, Joe Exotic, and David Spade in Joe Dirt (2001)
Kevin Winter/Getty; Netflix,C olumbia Pictures/Everett

A number of Hollywood actors have voiced their desire to portray the eccentric figure on-screen. Dax Shepard, for one, staked his claim on the part, writing on Twitter, “If I don’t get cast as Joe Exotic in the eventual biopic, Hollywood is broken.”

Pitt’s Fight Club costar Edward Norton then got in on the bid, replying to Shepard: “Um, step aside, pal. You’re way too young and buff and you know it,” to which Shepard, 45, claimed he’d complete a Christian Bale–like body transformation to assume the role.

“😁😁😁😁😁 I’ll go ‘Machinist’ for this,” he joked, referencing Bale’s weight loss for the 2004 film.

Actor Justin Long recommended comedian Jim Gaffigan to take on the part of Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, another exotic animal keeper chronicled in Tiger King, due to the pair’s striking resemblance.

“And if @JimGaffigan plays Baghavan ‘Doc’ Antle you can sit next to each other at the oscars!” wrote Long, 41.

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The show has also captivated a number of celebrities, with many of them dressing up as the subjects involved.

Oscar winner Jared Leto went as far as to give himself a Joe Exotic makeover for a watch-along party last week. On Twitter, the Dallas Buyers Club actor, 48, donned a cowboy hat and cuddled a stuffed tiger to binge the show with fans.

At least one scripted project is currently in the works, set to tell the story of Maldonado-Passage and the other major players in his stranger-than-fiction life.

For a Hulu limited series, Kate McKinnon will star as animal rights activist Carole Baskin, Maldonado-Passage’s rival whom he tried to have killed. As far as that series goes, no other roles have officially been cast.

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is now available to stream on Netflix.