Nicolas Cage is the Perfect Man to Play Joe Exotic

Published on December 4, 2020

Well, this was inevitable, wasn’t it? The king of on-screen madness, Nicolas Cage, is in talks to play Joe Exotic in what would be the actor’s first leading role in a TV show. The star of Netflix’s hit sensation, Tiger King, is basically a Coen Brothers character Cage was born to play. While some actors campaigned online for the role, it’s a role best suited to Cage’s talents.

The Show

Of all people, filmmaker and Arrested Development narrator, Ron Howard, is producing the show. CBS Television Studios, Howard, and Brian Grazer (a great author) are producing together. It doesn’t have a home yet, but the series is based on Leif Reigstad‘s article “Joe Exotic: A Dark Journey Into the World of a Man Gone Wild,” not the Netflix show. Speaking of Netflix shows, Dan Lagana, the showrunner behind Netflix’s American Vandal, is working on the Joe Exotic series. 

A Joe Exotic Origin Story 

It is the Joe Exotic show, too. Don’t expect much focus on Carole Baskin, who SNL star Kate McKinnon is in line to play on another Tiger King-related show. According to Variety, the potentially Cage-led drama is all about the exotic zookeeper. It’s an origin story. The show will focus on how he became the Joe Exotic we know today, as he struggles to maintain some sense of sanity in a horrific world of his own creation. 

The series is planned as eight episodes. Well before Tiger King became a hit Netflix doc — almost 35 million people watched it — CBS was interested in the Joe Exotic story. They began working on it in June of last year. Exotic’s backstory wasn’t fully explored in the Netflix series, so there’s still plenty of mystery surrounding the man. Maybe we’re getting Tiger King overkill and people will cool off on the story in the near future, but it’s hard to imagine people losing their intense, sometimes baffling fascination with Joe Exotic. 

Cage is Perfect

Cage is an actor who lives in the uncanny valley. The Oscar-winning performer, as he’s evolved and grown, has continued to venture to strange places. He can blend reality and fantasy in his performances, like in Mandy and Color Out of Space. The man can play madness to his core. Look at Bad Lieutenant, too, as another example of Cage playing a character out of touch with reality and wreaking havoc on himself and others. 

The Obvious Choice? 

Now, some would argue Cage is maybe the obvious choice for the madman Joe Exotiic, but rarely does Cage make obvious choices. Not only could he nail the lunacy and madness, but the rare moments of humanity we see in Joe Exotic as well. He’s a villain, no question, but Cage is the man to play him as the hero of his own story. It’s how Exotic, who’s now serving time in prison for plotting to murder Carole Baskin, sees himself. 

No doubt, the role will allow Cage to transform to great lengths. It’s such a juicy role the actor should bite into with relish. He’d get the comedy and horror of the character better than most actors, too. The role requires an actor who makes bold choices, and Cage has built an entire career on bold choices. No typical movie star or actor should play Joe Exotic. They wouldn’t get it like Cage does. Nobody can do what Cage does, similar to Joe Exotic. It’s a perfect marriage between actor and role. 

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Jack Giroux is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Los Angeles, he is an entertainment journalist who's previously written for Thrillist, Slash Film, Film School Rejects, and The Film Stage.

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