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4 Reasons Casting Nicolas Cage As Joe Exotic Is Simply Perfect

Nicolas Cage

In a world brought low by pandemic, economic upheaval, and overall weariness, we can celebrate once again. Nicolas Cage is the Tiger King.


Forget Rob Lowe, Matthew McConaughey, and Woody Harrelson. Only one man can channel the gay, gun-toting, white-trash energy of Joe Exotic. His name is Nicolas Cage.

Deadline announced yesterday that the role of Exotic in an upcoming CBS series would be played by Nicolas Cage. The eight-episode show is based on a 2019 article in Texas Monthly, entitled “Joe Exotic: A Dark Journey Into the World of a Man Gone Wild,” by Leif Reigstad.

As the internet caught wind of this decision, some expressed doubt, but quickly warmed to the idea.

Yes, Exotic is a polyamorous, gay man who tamed lions and tigers, ran for governor of Oklahoma, possibly committed arson (and gator-cide), and may have conspired to murder his rival. But don’t let Cage’s Academy Award and illustrious film career fool you. Here are four reasons Nicolas Cage and Joe Exotic are more alike than you think.

1. They Are Both Known by Multiple Names

Joseph Maldonado-Passage (né Schreibvogel) has not only taken the names of two of his male partners, he is perhaps best known by his stage name, Joe Exotic.

Likewise, Cage was actually born Nicolas Coppola, which is still his legal name. He adopted the stage name of Nicolas Cage early in his career. Because his uncle is famed director Francis Ford Coppola, Cage did not want to get parts just because he was Hollywood royalty. Ever the comic book fan, the stage name “Cage” is a nod to Luke Cage, the Marvel superhero. (One of Cage’s sons is named Kal-El, the birth name of Superman.)

2. They Both Like to Marry Often

Exotic always had at least one man by his side, although it’s unclear which were actually legal marriages. His first marriage, or partnership, was with Brian Rhyne, who sadly passed away from HIV and was not featured on the show. Then he was in a volatile relationship with a gentleman named J.C. Hartpence, who was not only a convicted sex offender, but is now in prison for first-degree murder. Then followed the young and straight John Finlay and Travis Maldonado. His current spouse, Dillon Passage, was 22 when they married.

Cage has been married four times. His first wife was actress Patricia Arquette, followed by Lisa Marie Presley. His ex-wife Alice Kim was only 20 when they met, a 20-year age gap. Most recently, in 2019, he was married to Erika Koike for only four days.

3. They Both Have Gotten in Trouble with the Law

Anyone who’s watched “Tiger King” knows Exotic had some legal worries. His ongoing legal battle with Carole Baskin cost a fortune, while zoo costs continued to balloon. He bought guns, vehicles, and other toys for his male spouses. He spent zoo money on his run for governor. And, of course, he is now in prison for plotting Baskin’s murder.

Cage’s antics have also attracted his fair share of legal trouble. He went on a bit of a real estate spending spree in the early 2000s, including two European castles. His former business manager alleges Cage’s “shopping spree entailed the purchase of three additional residences at a total cost of more than $33 million; the purchase of 22 automobiles (including 9 Rolls Royces); 12 purchases of expensive jewelry; and 47 purchases of artwork and exotic items.” This resulted in foreclosures, lawsuits, and problems with the Internal Revenue Service.

4. They’re Both Charismatic, Madcap Lunatics

We can mock all we want, but clearly the world can’t get enough of these mesmerizing eccentrics. Exotic charmed zoo visitors and employees and even convinced a few people to vote for him for governor. As if that weren’t impressive enough, more than 34.3 million viewers watched “Tiger King” in its first 10 days on Netflix.

As for Cage, his movies have brought in almost $5 billion worldwide. As Luke Buckmaster wrote in The Guardian after a 14-hour binge of Cage’s movies:

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.

Both men share a weird, enigmatic energy that draws people to them, for better or worse. Exotic’s skill for getting attention is no less impressive than Cage’s acting talent.

In a world brought low by pandemic, economic upheaval, and overall weariness, we can celebrate once again. Nicolas Cage is the Tiger King.