Don't expect to see Nicolas Cage as Joe Exotic the Tiger King any time soon

Looks like no one's roaring to watch a show about the Tiger King these days. Amazon has shelved plans for an original series on the 2020 phenomenon.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
2 min read

Don't expect to see Nicolas Cage, seen at right in 1997's Con Air, playing Joe Exotic, seen at left.

Netflix/Touchstone Pictures

The Tiger King's star burned bright and fast, but now it seems to have faded. Back in October, we reported that Amazon had picked up an eight-episode Amazon Original scripted series starring Nicolas Cage as Joe Exotic, the Oklahoma big-cat park owner whose story captivated a coronavirus-stricken nation in 2020's hit Netflix series Tiger King. It was to be the first television role of Cage's five-decade acting career.  

But it's been more than a year now since anyone was buzzing about the Tiger King, and the show is no longer in production at Amazon. 

"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," Cage told Variety. "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."

The series was to be based on the Texas Monthly magazine article Joe Exotic: A Dark Journey Into the World of a Man Gone Wild, by Leif Reigstad.

Read: CNET's interview with Joel McHale where he discusses Community and Tiger King.

Cage, 56, won the best actor Academy Award for 1995's Leaving Las Vegas. His other films include Adaptation, Moonstruck, Raising Arizona, Face/Off and the Ghost Rider and National Treasure films. His quirky persona and looks, as well as his unusual film choices, seemed to make him an apparent natural to play Joe Exotic, aka Joseph Maldonado-Passage, who's now serving a 22-year prison sentence in Texas. Cage's name often came up in dream casting articles for a scripted Joe Exotic story -- including CNET's version.

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Late-night host Jimmy Fallon even donned a mullet and flashy shirt to mimic Cage mimicking Joe Exotic.

As for Joe Exotic himself, he hoped former president Donald Trump would pardon him before leaving office, but that didn't happen. He remains in federal prison in Texas. But in July 2021, he announced The Bachelor King, a contest to find his next husband.

"The top three picks will receive a three-night, four-day all-exclusive paid romantic getaway with Joe Exotic once he has been released," the site says.

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