Entertainment Celebrity Why Nicolas Cage won’t be playing Tiger King zookeeper Joe Exotic
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Why Nicolas Cage won’t be playing Tiger King zookeeper Joe Exotic

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Oscar-winning actor Nicolas Cage won’t be playing dodgy Oklahoma zookeeper Joe Exotic in the new Tiger King series after streaming giant Amazon scrapped the project.

His past few animal-focused movie roles – Primal and the delightfully quirky Pig – would’ve been perfect preparation for him, but sadly he won’t be fashioned up with a blond mullet while rolling around in leather pants in cages with wild tigers as we had hoped.

In an exclusive interview with Variety on Wednesday, Cage wanted to “clear the record” on speculation surrounding what was happening with the eight-part series.

Cage’s project was based on a 2019 Texas Monthly story about Exotic, how he built his homemade private zoo in Oklahoma, and his rivalries with fellow zoo and sanctuary owners, Carole Baskin and Jeff Lowe.

Cage, who signed on to play Kansas farmer Joe Schreibvogel (Exotic), as well as being executive producer, admitted the “material” was no longer relevant.

“I read two excellent scripts, which I did think were excellent, but I think Amazon ultimately felt that it was material that had become past tense because it took so long for it come together.

“They felt at one point that it was lightning in a bottle, but that point has since faded into the distance and it’s no longer relevant.”

In a year of global quarantine and pandemic restrictions in 2020, viewers hung on every scene – and word – in Netflix’s pop-culture phenomenon Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.

Watched by 64 million people, it was “so fascinatingly disastrous that it [was] hard to look away”.

As Canadian website cbr.com noted: “Tiger King – with its highly-combustible mix of agitated apex predators, missing teeth and limbs, questionable tattoos, head-scratching hairstyles and gaudily-printed fashions – is as intensely visual and intentionally dramatic as anything most people have ever seen.”

It blended a “hot mess” of documentary and reality TV with apparent animal abuse.

As Variety mused, “Exotic, with his bleached blonde mullet, his seedy animal park, and his central role in a plot to have an animal rights activist murdered, would seem like natural role for Cage, who has never shied away from big, broad performances”.

The classic Tiger King shot that sums up a global entrancement with the world of Joe Exotic. Photo: Netflix

All is not lost though, there’s another Tiger King-inspired series in the works at Peacock, featuring Tony Award-winning actor John Cameron Mitchell as Exotic and Emmy-winning comedian Kate McKinnon as the big cat-loving (and alleged black widow) Carole Baskin.

Dennis Quaid will play Tiger King producer and journalist Rick Kirkham.

This series, based on the Wondery podcast titled Joe Exotic: Tiger King, is likely to explore a different side of the famous big cat rivalry.

Animals and Nicolas Cage

For the disappointed Cage fans (who can’t go past Con Air, 8mm and the National Treasure franchise), he has kept busy, this week arriving on the red carpet for the premiere of Pig, a film about a former celebrity chef who owns a valuable truffle-smelling … pig.

No spoiler alert, but the pig is stolen, and Cage, in his inimitable style of edgy anger, leaves the forest where he lives as a bearded hermit and goes in search of his beloved animal.

Receiving rave reviews, he told Variety there’s “less pressure and more oxygen in the room on an independent movie to express yourself.”

In 2019’s Primal, Cage plays a hunter and collector of rare and exotic animals who captures a rare white jaguar. It’s an action-packed Saturday afternoon thriller.

And while some consider Cage a “B-grade god” of cinema, with 100 feature films under his belt, he’s also considered “erratic, unpredictable and captivating”.

As Luke Buckmaster wrote in The Guardian, “In Cage’s hands, cartoonish moments are imbued with real emotion and real emotions become cartoons.

“Everything – from individual scenes down to single lines of dialogue – feel like they have been embraced as opportunities for creation.

“Cage is usually interesting even when his films are not. He is erratic and unpredictable; he is captivating and he is capricious. He is a performer. He is a troubadour. He is a jazz musician.”

And so his next project is …?

He’s playing a fictionalised version of himself in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.