‘Tiger King’ Star John Finlay Thinks Shia LaBeouf Could Play Him in a Movie

Netflix’s true-crime series, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness, documents the life of Joe Exotic  — a big cat breeder and zookeeper who hired a hitman to kill his rival. His ex-husband, John Finlay, is one of the series’ breakout stars. With people talking about a potential feature film, Finlay has his own ideas on who could play him best. 

Tiger King
Joe Exotic | Netflix

Who is ‘Tiger King’ star John Finlay?

As shown on Tiger King, John Finlay was Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic’s second husband. The two met in 2003 when Finlay came to work for him.

“When I first met Joe, I was like a month out of high school,” Finlays says in the docuseries. “He showed me love, and I learned how big my heart was, and how much to care.” 

Finlay spent much of his time at Maldonado-Passage’s G.W. Zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. He helped his husband take care of hundreds of exotic animals, including tigers, lions, ligers, bears, monkeys, and reptiles. 

In 2014, Finlay and Maldonado-Passage had a three-person wedding with 19-year old Travis Maldonado. But only one year into their marriage, things started to fall apart.

The two got into a physical altercation that ended up with Finlay being charged with battery. Finlay came back to work at the zoo and started a relationship with the secretary, who then ended up having his baby. 

Finlay left the zoo in late 2017, right around the time Maldonado-Passage started having financial and legal troubles. While the zookeeper was under federal investigation, he attempted to hire a hitman (an undercover federal agent) to have his rival, Carole Baskin killed. He was convicted in 2019, and sentenced to 22 years in prison in early 2020. 

Rumors of a potential ‘Tiger King’ movie are swirling

Since it premiered in March, Tiger King has become somewhat of a phenomenon. Along with the rest of the world, celebrities like Kim Kardashian West, Cardi B, and David Spade are now obsessed with its story. 

The documentary series is now so popular, that people are waiting for a feature film to be made about Maldonado-Passage’s life.  In fact, actors like Dax Shepard, Edward Norton, and Jared Leto all took to Twitter to express their desire to play “Joe Exotic” if a movie were ever to be made. 

“If I don’t get cast as Joe Exotic in the eventual biopic, Hollywood is broken,” Shepard wrote in a tweet. “Um, step aside, pal,” Norton responded to Shepard on Twitter. “You’re way too young and buff and you know it. You could probably pull off Maldonado still, actually. Wouldn’t that be fun?” 

Finlay already has ideas on who could play him best

When talking to CNN, Finlay said either “Shia LaBeouf or Channing Tatum” could play his role if a film were to be made. Maldonado-Passage has suggested Brad Pitt could play his role. But when CNN asked Finlay about that casting choice, he wasn’t exactly on board. 

“Brad Pitt, no,” he said about his ex’s suggestion. “Dax Shephard, he would probably be the better choice.”