Bhagavan "Doc" Antle and Jeff Lowe agree with Carole Baskin on one thing — they aren't happy with how they are portrayed in new Netflix series Tiger King, either.
Since its 20 March release, people have devoured the seven-part documentary, thanks in part to stay-at-home orders issued around the world due to the coronavirus. Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness examines big cat breeding in the United States and centres on the life and crimes of zookeeper Joe Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic.
In 2019, he was sentenced to 22 years in prison over a murder-for-hire plot against Baskin and for killing some of his own tigers. The documentary was filmed over five years and some people are upset with the final product.
Read more: Everything coming to Netflix UK in April
Here's what the eccentric characters in Tiger King think of the documentary:
Who is he? Ran as a candidate for President of the United States in 2016 as well as for Governor of Oklahoma in 2018. Former owner of the now-closed park in Wynnewood, Okla.
What does he think? The filmmakers said he's "ecstatic."
"Joe has called me quite a few times over the last few days and weeks. One, he is absolutely ecstatic about the series and the idea of being famous. He’s absolutely thrilled. I think he is trying to be an advocate for — no surprise — criminal justice reform," Goode told the Los Angeles Times. "He is in a cage and of course he’s gonna say that he now recognises what he did to these animals. With Joe, we have empathy for him, but at the same time, he’s someone who really knows what to say at the right moment. I take it with a big grain of salt when he says he is now apologetic for keeping animals."
"You can hardly talk to him without him mentioning the amount of press he’s getting," said Chaiklin. "He says people are asking to see his Prince Albert and girls are sending him sexy bikini pictures even though he’s gay. He’s over the moon. Having kept in pretty close touch with him while he’s been in a horrible county prison, this has raised his spirits. Joe definitely did some horrible things to his animals. He was very abusive to them and he shot five tigers, no question about it. But what has happened to him has also been hard."
In his interview with the New York Times, Goode emphasised again Joe is thrilled with his fame.
"Joe is ecstatic. He’d call from time to time, from jail. He’s been transferred to a federal penitentiary in Fort Worth. I lost communication — I think he had to go into quarantine because of the virus — but up until about three days ago, he was communicating with us," he added. "And thoroughly enjoying his 15 minutes of fame."
Who is he? Joe’s former business partner who owns his G.W. Zoo in Oklahoma.
What does he think? Jeff and his wife Lauren called their portrayal in the docuseries "unfair."
"They touched on about 10 percent of the story," Jeff said in a video interview with TMX.news. "The portrayal of us stealing the zoo from Joe was very unfair because we came here to help him."
Joe is suing Jeff for filing false statements to federal agents. ("[Jeff] was the main person in this entrapment scheme to take my zoo for free," he alleges. "Changed my medicine with illegal drugs, stole my animals under fraudulent reasons.")
"We got [the zoo] back on its feet. We left to move away because we didn’t want to be in a zoo in Oklahoma," Jeff maintained to TMZ.news. "So, the notion that we tried to steal the zoo from him was just ridiculous."
Who is he? A fellow big cat collector who runs Antle’s Myrtle Beach Safari.
What does he think? Antle is upset with both personal and professional aspects relating to him in Tiger King.
"This is not a documentary," Antle declared in a separate interview to TMX.news. "This is a salacious, outrageous ride through a television show produced to create drama. To just tie you in to some crazy train wreck of a story between the feud of Carole Baskin and Joe Exotic and the meltdown that ensued between two people who both are far too close to murder themselves, and I think a little bit of madness thrown in on their parts."
Antle claimed filmmakers weren't upfront about the Joe and Carole storyline.
"It was not mentioned in any capacity that this show that I was working on would portray anything about Carole or Joe. Questions about Carole and Joe were a dozen or so thrown into hundreds of others, and I repeatedly told them I have no desire to be involved in some show where you’ve got the feud of Carole and Joe going on, it’s not my thing, leave me out of it," Antle emphasised. "Over and over that was the intention and that’s what we worked towards. But everything went sideways... it certainly is not a documentary and full of a whole pack of untruths."
Antle said when he was approached by filmmakers he was pitched a different concept.
"I worked with the director for two and a half years, saw him probably five or six times for several days in a row each time. That endless portrayal of a program that he was doing with us was purely about a wildlife conservation show about our work that we’re doing in Sumatra, Africa to save endangered species there," he explained. "And that was the documentary that I worked on and all of that stuff somehow found its way to the cutting room floor where far more wild, crazy accusations were gleaned from disgruntled people, jealous, crazy guys on the edges to say something outrageous and try and go with that."
He called Tiger King "outrageous TV."
"They pushed several notions, the worst of which is that somehow tiger cubs exist in copious amounts and that these tiger cubs only have a value as children and that that is a super short time, and then they’re just killed off afterwards," Antle stated. "Whether it's a baby or an adult, we care for all of those tigers the absolute best to our ability."
He also pushed back on the notion he's a womaniser running some sort of cult.
"I’m a single guy. My wife died 25 years ago... I’ve never been married since," he said. "I have girlfriends, I’m a single guy. This massive judgmentalness of somehow I’m not supposed to have girlfriends or something is just off my rocker here how they got to this point. They are just looking for something to be outrageous."
Antle continued, "The girls that they are showing throughout the facility — they show girls dancing and getting ready and all that stuff — these are the girls that are the wives of staff who live here, these are my grandchildren, these are my grandchildren’s fiancé, this is my son's fiancé, this is a variety of ladies who devote their time here that are part of a team. The team is half men. Did you see any men in the series? They cut them all out to make it appear that this is a girl place."
Who is she? An animal rights activist and owner of Big Cat Rescue.
What does she think? Baskin slammed filmmakers in a statement to Yahoo Entertainment.
"When the directors of the Netflix documentary Tiger King came to us five years ago, they said they wanted to make the big cat version of Blackfish, the acclaimed documentary that exposed the horrible abuse taking place at SeaWorld and other similar parks around the world," Baskin began. "A lifelong animal lover, I was immediately drawn to the possibility of exposing the misery caused by the rampant breeding of big cat cubs for exploitation and the awful lives these majestic creatures are forced to endure in roadside zoos and back yards if they survive their time used for petting."
"There are no words for how disappointing it is to see that the series not only does not do any of that, but has instead chosen to be as salacious and sensational as possible to draw in viewers," she continued. "As part of that, they devoted an entire segment to 23-year-old lies and innuendos suggesting I was involved in my husband Don’s 1997 disappearance."
Joe said numerous times in the show he believes Baskin fed her former husband to the tigers.
"I will not use this platform to bring further attention to Netflix or their unethical practices, especially when so many of their so-called inside sources have been clearly shown to be heavily biased," Baskin said, adding she hopes viewers "will join our fight and cease support of the individuals capable of this abuse by not engaging in cub petting or 'tiger selfies' and, even more importantly, help us pass the Big Cat Public Safety Act which would end so much of the abuse."
Who is he? One of Joe Exotic's former "husbands" — although they were never legally married.
What does he think? He's OK with the documentary.
Finlay called in to SiriusXM’s The Jenny McCarthy Show and said working on Tiger King was therapeutic, explaining it was "a release of built up resentment and stuff that I could actually get out and let the public know the truth."
"There was years of mental abuse and other things that went on," he explained, adding he's now six years sober and has "completely moved on with everything."
As for how he's physically portrayed — shirtless with missing teeth — Doc Antle accused filmmakers of trying to make Finlay seem like a drug addict. Antle said during his TMX.news interview he met Finlay a few times at zoo conferences and called him a "nice guy."
"John has beautiful set of teeth, John has a nice haircut. John doesn't walk around without his shirt on," Antle claimed. "This is a character that they created to portray some guy that they're insinuating has meth teeth... they said take your shirt off, take your teeth off... give us more accent... we want to portray you like a meth head."
Finlay didn't seem too upset over it, but said in an interview with David Spade it was "the director's idea" to do his interviews shirtless. (Filmmaker Rebecca Chaiklin told the Los Angeles Times it was Finlay’s choice.)
"It was kind of the sex appeal type thing," Finlay said. Overall, he’s "had a lot of more positive out of it than I’ve had negative."
Who is he? Joe Exotic's fourth and current husband.
What does he think? Dillon enjoyed the documentary.
"The producers, they put the story together very, very well I think," the 24-year-old said Wednesday on SiriusXM’s Andy Cohen Live. "They stayed true to the entire storyline and I even learned a lot of things that I didn't even know about Carole and Joe's feud."
Who is he? A former drug kingpin who now runs the Zoological Wildlife Foundation in Miami.
What does he think? Tabraue is included in the documentary as he's now a big cat zookeeper — and he's got one interesting past. According to Goode, he's happy with the documentary.
"We tried very hard to be honest and fair with all of the subjects in the story. Some of them are bigger than life, for sure. They told me what they told me and some of that landed in the series. Of course we wanted to bring out each character’s unique qualities. Mario Tabraue [the convicted drug trafficker] was genuinely pleased with the outcome. He knew that he had a past that people would want to hear about," Goode told the New York Times.
Rebecca Chaiklin and Eric Goode
Who are they? The co-directors and writers of Tiger King.
What do they think? They stand by the documentary, despite criticism.
"I would just say we were completely forthright with the characters. With any project that goes on for five years, things evolve and change, and we followed it as any good storyteller does. We could have never known when we started this project that it was going to land where it did," Chaiklin told the Los Angeles Times.
Goode added, "Carole talked about her personal life, her childhood, abuse from her first and second husband, the disappearance of her ex, Don Lewis. She knew that this was not just about ... it’s not a Blackfish because of the things she spoke about. She certainly wasn’t coerced. The other thing I would say about all these people is that there was a lack of intellectual curiosity to really go and understand or even see these animals in the wild. Certainly, Carole really had no interest in seeing an animal in the wild.... The lack of education, frankly, was really interesting — how they had built their own little utopias and really were only interested in that world and the rules they had created.
Watch: The rivalry behind Netflix's binge-worth series “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness”: