Why Tiger King's Joe Exotic Said He Might Shoot Louis Theroux In The Head
Before Netflix's insanely popular docuseries Tiger King became the cultural phenomenon it is today, filmmaker Louis Theroux first gave us a peek into the wild world of eccentric zookeeper Joe Exotic.
Despite having found worldwide fame in Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, the weird and wacky world of the gun-toting polygamist Joe Exotic and his famed tiger zoo had first been explored in Louis Theroux’s America’s Most Dangerous Pets in 2011.
Giving Theroux access to his park, Joe Exotic -- real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage -- gave the filmmaker a personal tour of the zoo, which caged more than 200 big cats, including a "liger" -- a crossbreed of lion and tiger.
After fans of Theroux asked him about his thoughts on the Netflix series, as well as wanting to know any tidbits from his own experience with Joe Exotic, the documentarian revealed that while he enjoyed the Netflix series, he can't help but feel envious of the documentary's success.
“I greatly enjoyed Tiger King, my pleasure only slightly attenuated by a sense of envy and missed opportunity that I wasn’t involved in what has turned out to be a global smash,” Theroux told The Times.
“I do recall that, having made our documentary, which came out as America’s Most Dangerous Pets, I felt there was probably some kind of longer-form series to be made about that world,” he said.
He continued,“Though I had no idea Joe would end up caught up in a murder-for-hire case and I really can’t claim any kind of prescience other than noticing that it is pretty weird for Americans to be keeping multitudes of large exotic animals in small cages.”
Speaking about his time with Exotic, Theroux admitted that he found it "hard to dislike" him.
"Joe struck me as likeable and friendly," he said. "I warmed to him, and his ridiculousness was endearing rather than annoying."
He added, "As awful as the practice is, and despite the many compromises and cruelties entailed in Joe's running of the GW zoo, it was hard to dislike the man himself."
This was despite Exotic joking that he would "shoot" Theroux in the head in a mercy killing if he were to be attacked by one of his big cats.
"If he was to get you, he would not kill you and eat you right away," Joe told Louis in the 2011 documentary. "He's going to torment you. If you were to get in there and I was out here trying to get you out, he would be on top of you covering you up because you're his.
"I would just shoot you, it would be more humane."
"You would shoot me in the head?" Theroux then asked.
"Yeah," Joe laughed. "Because I'm not going to get you back. So why make you suffer?"
And while his own documentary didn't feature or mention Big Cat Rescue's Carole Baskin, Theroux revealed some major goss on the pair's infamous beef, revealing that even then, Exotic had been "preoccupied” with his “grudge” against Baskin.
“Joe’s grudge against Carole preoccupied him when we filmed. He would rant about her, mentioning his belief that she’d had one of her husbands killed,” he said.
Though many viewers insist that the leopard-print loving cat enthusiast was behind the death of her missing husband, Don Lewis, Theroux believes allegations of Baskin’s involvement in killing Lewis is “very unlikely”.
While he generally found the mullet-wearing wannabe muso to be generally likeable, Theroux added that Exotic was "an emotional dude", revealing he broke down on the final day of filming.
“He was constantly saying that the park was on the verge of collapse due to its bills. The most troubling thing he said was probably that if the park went bankrupt, he would kill all the animals.”
Maldonado-Passage is currently serving a 22-year sentence for 17 counts that stem from animal abuse charges and a attempting to hire a hit man to kill Baskin.