We live in strange times at the moment – and that strangeness has been mirrored in horribly addictive documentary series Tiger King.
No doubt many of you have already binge-watched the bizarro series in all its lurid glory. Truly, this is a show that is tailor-made for the Covid-19 lockdown period: it's utterly surreal yet compulsive viewing, which foregrounds a host of characters who are simply too odd to be fictional.
Centrally, the documentary is focused on flamboyant big cat breeder Joe Exotic (aka the 'Tiger King' of the title), and his mortal enemy Carole Baskin, a fellow animal keeper. Polygamy, murder, conspiracy, country music and more all feature as the rivalry between the two spins wildly out of control over the course of seven episodes.
And there's a movie in the works, reportedly – Exotic has himself said that he wants Brad Pitt or David Spade to play him. But we can do better than that. Here's our fantasy casting for the Tiger King movie.
Who should play Joe Exotic?
The bleach-blonde, maverick owner of Oklahoma's Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, Joe Exotic also has a sideline in country music covers. Gun-toting and increasingly maniacal, with a steadfast hatred of animal rights activists who stray onto his property, Exotic is a peach of a role for actors with a reputation for playing cranks and weirdos.
1. Michael Keaton
One shouldn't look to normality as far as Michael Keaton is concerned. His depiction of Bruce Wayne in Tim Burton's two Batman movies coursed with a sense of rage and torment. And his wacky side has been fully unleashed many times, including his title role in Burton's classic 1988 comedy Beetlejuice (pictured below).
2. Sam Rockwell
Here's another actor who's not afraid to get under the skin of unsavoury characters. Sam Rockwell won his first Oscar for his portrayal of a racist policeman in satirical black comedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. He was also memorably creepy as an incarcerated psychopath in 1999's The Green Mile, starring opposite Tom Hanks.
3. Kevin Bacon
Still, if we're talking actors unfazed by controversy, then Kevin Bacon has to be top of the pile. Bacon has delivered attention-courting roles in controversial drama such as Sleepers and The Woodsman, and his range of nutcase portrayals spans Hollow Man to X-Men: First Class.
Who should play Carole Baskin?
Joe Exotic's mortal enemy, Carole Baskin is the owner of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida. She positions herself as an altruistic, outwardly benevolent protector of nature, but that beaming smile appears to hide many secrets. Chief among which: what happened to her first husband, who disappeared without a trace? Smiley, friendly yet vaguely passive-aggressive – this demands an actor who can reveal themselves in stages.
1. Cate Blanchett
Winner of two Oscars, Cate Blanchett is no stranger to difficult roles that are capable of wrong-footing the audience. Her range is formidable, from her depiction of Katherine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese's The Aviator (her first Oscar) to a haunted, lovestruck, 1950s housewide in Carol. She would convince us of Baskin's potentially dark side where many other performers would struggle.
2. Jessica Chastain
Here is an actor with a knack for playing hard-headed, tenacious characters (which would surely make her a perfect choice for Carole Baskin). Jessica Chastain propelled Kathryn Bigelow's Iraq war drama Zero Dark Thirty largely on the strength of her personality, and these traits have been spotted in other roles including Crimson Peak and Molly's Game.
3. Julianne Moore
With one Oscar and multiple nominations under her belt, Julianne Moore has carved out a reputation for embodying complicated women. Her range is justifiably renowned: in Todd Hayne's drama Safe, she played someone who was allergic to the fabric of modern society. And in Still Alice, she played a linguistics professor grappling with the tragedy of Alzheimer's.
Who should play 'Doc' Antle?
Alleged cult leader and fellow big cat owner, 'Doc' Antle offers a dangerously hands-on approach at his animal sanctuary The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species in South Carolina. He takes to roaming his property on a massive elephant, and is one of the most unnerving characters to appear in the documentary. So, who could possibly play him?
1. Woody Harrelson
Harrelson played a deep-fried hick to terrifying effect in thriller Out Of The Furnace, starring opposite Christian Bale. He also depicted psycho Mickey Knox in director Oliver Stone's hugely controversial Natural Born Killers. Let's not also forget TV sensation True Detective, in which he starred with Matthew McConaughey. Here's an actor not afraid to go out on a limb and portray a singularly strange individual.
2. Willem Dafoe
Who could forget Willem Dafoe's recent performance in The Lighthouse? Explosive, volatile yet darkly funny, it proves that the Dafoe-aissance is alive and well. Yet The Lighthouse is but one example in a career studded with memorably creepy portrayals, from Wild At Heart to Shadow Of The Vampire and Spider-Man, the last of which featured Dafoe as the villainous Green Goblin.
3. Joaquin Phoenix
Phoenix recently became the first person to win a Best Actor Oscar for a comic book movie. That film was, of course, Joker, and was driven by the actor's mercurial, frightening turn. A sign, perhaps, of how he could ignite the role of 'Doc' Antle? Well, let's not forget Phoenix's other explosive performances, including Gladiator and The Master – those films also indicate that he's the right man for the job.
Who should play Jeff Lowe?
AKA the mysterious individual brought in by Joe Exotic to help manage his animal 'sanctuary', but who becomes a key player in the machinations and mania that follow. For this, we'd need an actor with a taciturn exterior who could nevertheless weird us out with their presence.
1. Gary Oldman
He won his first Oscar for playing British icon Winston Churchill. But once upon a time, Gary Oldman was known, almost exclusively, for playing crazies, both real and fictional. His enigmatic portrayal of Lee Harvey Oswald in Oliver Stone's J.F.K. leaps to mind, and more flamboyant depictions have come in the likes of True Romance and Leon.
2. Jeff Bridges
By and large, Jeff Bridges is known for playing good guys, of all stripes. From his endearing stoner character in the Coen brothers' cult classic The Big Lebowski, to his plane crash survivor in Peter Weir's haunting Fearless, Bridges usually has an air of nobility about him. But he can creep us out, as the (admittedly dreadful) remake of The Vanishing, and also the first Iron Man movie, demonstrate.
3. Kurt Russell
In Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof, Kurt Russell demonstrated the qualities that might serve him well for the role of Jeff Lowe. His character, Stuntman Mike, was outwardly stoic with real darkness beneath, both macho and unsettling. Even before that, Russell proved that he could do inscrutable, unreadable portrayals effectively – just look at the end of John Carpenter's The Thing, in which it's unclear if he's human or alien.
Who should play Travis Maldonado?
Joe Exotic's ill-fated husband (well, one of them), Travis Maldonado is one of the more sympathetic (relatively speaking) figures in the insane Tiger King saga.
1. Timothee Chalamet
In drug addiction drama Beautiful Boy, Timothee Chalamet gave the kind of strung-out, overwrought portrayal that would fit well with the Tiger King movie. Soon to be seen in Denis Villeneuve's Dune movie, he's a young actor of rare depth and sensitivity, as his Oscar-nominated turn in Call Me By Your Name demonstrates.
2. Ansel Elgort
In sweeping drama The Goldfinch, adapted from Donna Tartt's book, Ansel Elgort took on the role of a young man grappling with dark, tortured secrets. This may well set him up for the role of the conflicted Travis. Elsewhere, Elgort's ability to demonstrate conflicting loyalties has been displayed in the likes of Edgar Wright hit Baby Driver.
3. Lucas Hedges
Finally, another rising star who has a clutch of complex character depictions under his belt. In Manchester By The Sea, Lucas Hedges gives an Oscar-nominated performance as a moody teen struggling with profound moral weight. These qualities have been mirrored in other movies, including Jonah Hill's directorial debut Mid90s, Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird and Trey Edward Shults' Waves.
Who should play James Garretson?
Joe Exotic's 'friend' turned eventual FBI informant, the apparently unassuming James Garretson plays a key role in the title character's eventual downfall. He's also a big fan of a jet ski. This isn't a role that calls for glamour – rather, a steadily encroaching sense of paranoia, which can be exploited for dark humour.
1. Jesse Plemons
Jesse Plemons has veered between victim and victimiser in his impressive (and still-burgeoning) career. He's worked with the likes of Paul Thomas Anderson on The Master, Martin Scorsese on The Irishman and Steven Spielberg on Bridge of Spies. Plemons' unassuming, everyman demeanour could be well exploited if he's cast as James Garretson.
2. Paul Walter Hauser
Not familiar with the name? You could be forgiven – Paul Walter Hauser has only recently come onto all our radars. He stunned as the titular, persecuted security guard in Clint Eastwood's Richard Jewell, playing a man under extreme duress. Need we say more about why we'd like to see him in the Tiger King movie?
3. Jonah Hill
As his role in The Wolf Of Wall Street demonstrated, Jonah Hill can turn a character who's frazzled (and often downright unlikeable) into something very funny indeed. Hill is great at bemusement, as the likes of Superbad attest, and he could bring great comic timing to the Tiger King film.
Who do you want to see cast in the Tiger King movie? Let us know @Cineworld.