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As Netflix docuseries Tiger King and its outlandish star Joe Exotic continue to take the quarantined world by storm, some of Hollywood’s biggest names have been thrown around to star as the big cat enthusiast in a fictional adaptation, from Brad Pitt to David Spade to Danny McBride. Dax Shepard, though, thinks he is the man for the job and has been vocal on Twitter about his desire to take on the starring role — as he tells The Hollywood Reporter, “Physically, I can do mullet, mustache, guns, gay — I think.”
Of his draw to portraying the currently imprisoned Exotic — legal name Joseph Maldonado-Passage, a gay, polygamist zookeeper from Oklahoma serving 22 years for ordering a hit on his nemesis, Florida big cat sanctuary owner Carole Baskin —Shepard says, “I think me as an ex-scumbag addict who’s kind of nice now, I feel like I have the goods.” He also identifies with many of the other characters in the documentary (“Those were my neighbors growing up”) and admits to having “an endless soft spot for flawed people who I think are sweetie pies inside.”
After tweeting “If I don’t get cast as Joe Exotic in the eventual biopic, Hollywood is broken,” the actor and Armchair Expert podcast host quickly made his way into the casting conversation (with Kate McKinnon already set to play Carole Baskin in one adaptation) and says he’s just excited to be considered: “I saw one last night and every actor on the board was twice as well-known as me, twice as much cachet, many [Oscar] nominees in the mix, and I’m like, ‘Oh, wow, I’m being included with all these people. If nothing else happens, I feel so flattered.'”
The one thing holding back Shepard’s Joe Exotic dreams?
“I am deathly afraid of large animals; it’s the only fear that I carry around,” he says. “I have recurring nightmares that I’m in a room full of domesticated lions and tigers and a friend has assured me that they’re safe and then they always attack me.”
Therefore, his pitch includes the use of CGI lions and tigers rather than the real thing.
“I’ll do the kittens. I don’t mind losing a pinky, but a jugular? I’ve got to keep that safe.”
A version of this story first appeared in the April 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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