Making The Case For Tiger King By Wes Anderson

It could be the effect that quarantine is having on me, but I would love to see Tiger King as viewed through Wes Anderson’s lens. 

The Tiger King story contains many of the requirements for an Anderson script. Allow me to guide you through them.

Awful people



Just awful. Who’s the villain of the piece? Villains as far as the eye can see. Fortunately, Wes Anderson loves an asshole. Max in Rushmore, Royal in The Royal Tenenbaums, Dmitri in Grand Budapest Hotel. With Tiger King, he’s got plenty to play with: criminals, scoundrels, and backstabbers. Many with bloodlust and all addicted to being in the public eye.

Camp characters 

There is no shortage of preening or drama, and Anderson’s costume department would have a field day. Joe Exotic finds himself under a Federal investigation spearheaded by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Just take a look at their badge.

Remind you of anything?

Animals

His films usually contain a minimum of one dog and, at the other end of the scale, there are both of his stop-motion features: Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) and Isle of Dogs (2018)

Grotesque backdrop

Not just one zoo. Multiple zoos. 

Longstanding feuds 

Feuds thread their way through Anderson’s stories. For example in The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited, and especially The Life Aquatic, in which he pits Bill Murray’s Steve Zissou against Alistair Hennessey (Jeff Goldblum), a jaguar shark, and his own recently acquainted son. Feuds atop feuds within feuds. He loves them.

Soundtrack by Mark Mothersbaugh

Mothersbaugh (Devo) scored the soundtrack for the Tiger King documentary on Netflix, and just so happens to be an old Wes Anderson collaborator, having worked on his first four films. 

White people dabbling in eastern mysticism

The Darjeeling Limited is woven around three adult brats playing at  ‘spiritual self-discovery’ in ways that would impress Bhagavan ‘Doc’ Antle (just don’t say that he runs a sex cult, ok?).

When it comes to casting this monster, the main problem would be trying to crowbar Anderson’s regulars into the roles. Bill Murray as Bhagavan ‘Doc’ Antle? Perhaps. Jason Schwartzman as Joe Exotic? Probably not.

The easiest fit is Andrew Wilson as GW zoo assistant Erik Cowie. Here is his Razor from Whip It (2009), but I’m pretty sure that’s his normal getup.

Take away a few inches in height, and add a few inches in width, and we could have Edward Norton as the Machiavellian con artist Jeff Lowe.

As the self-appointed casting director, my number one suggestion for lead man Joe Exotic is Bud Cort. He played a small part (Bill Ubell, “Bond Company Stooge”) in The Life Aquatic (2004), and the leading role in Harold & Maude (1971), a film that must have left an imprint on a young Wes Anderson’s brain. Sure Cort is much older than Joe Exotic, but as Lois Griffin once said “Meth is a helluva drug”

I put Allison Janney in the role of kooky kitten/murderess Carole (pronounced Kyarl) Baskin. She would be a new face to the Anderson tribe, but as a darkly comic character actress, she fits the profile. 

Janney expresses her range in roles from Away We Go (2009) to I, Tonya (2018) and iconic C.J. Cregg in The West Wing. Her take on an unhinged hippie psychopath would be a hoot. She’s already pals with Frances McDormand (initiated in Moonrise Kingdom) who, while we’re at it, would make a brilliant FBI agent.

That’s all well and good, but why do I think of Ray Romano when I see Howard Baskin? God help us all.

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is streaming on Netflix now.


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Esme Betamax is a writer and illustrator. Often found in the Cube Microplex. Favourites include: I ♡ Huckabees, Where the Buffalo Roam, Harold & Maude, Being John Malkovich and In the Shadow of the Moon.

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