Louis Theroux Reflects On Similarities Between Joe Exotic And Jimmy Savile
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Theroux first met Exotic - real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage - 10 years ago while making America's Most Dangerous Pets, in which he explored the alarmingly common US practice of keeping exotic animals in questionable conditions.
Now the focal figure of Tiger King is incarcerated, having been convicted of attempting to hire a hitman to kill animal sanctuary CEO and nemesis, Carole Baskin - as well as a series of violations of the Endangered Species Act, including killing five tigers.
In a bid to piece together the intervening turbulence and get a better sense of the story beyond the story, Theroux has revisited reams of unseen footage from his original documentary and returned to Oklahoma for a new feature-length special.
This process had the 50-year-old ruminating about the parallels between Exotic and Jimmy Savile - another subject he re-examined having learnt of his crimes in the interim.
"With respect to Jimmy Savile, clearly the big difference is Joe is not a sex offender," Theroux told LADbible.
"But he had a quality of, I guess, almost disguising his criminal tendencies by putting them on display, and in a way you sort of thought, 'Oh, well, if he really was intent on having Carole Baskin killed, he wouldn't talk about it all the time'.
"And there is a sort of parallel with Jimmy Savile, who would often make macabre jokes that people thought, 'Well, if he was really that dodgy, he probably wouldn't say that'... Plus the weird hair as well."
The fondness Theroux developed for Exotic and his eccentric personality is another similarity - though he couldn't help but feel on edge in the former zoo owner's company.
Theroux said: "I quite liked Joe, like millions of people. I was charmed by him, I found that his kind of over the top colourful, rustic, flamboyant personality and unapologetic kind of 'take it or leave it' sort of attitude was kind of fun and intoxicating.
"But at the same time, I was always aware that I could never quite relax around him, if that isn't a strange thing to say. I've been around a lot of different sorts of egomaniacs, narcissists, or people who in different ways are to an extent self-centred, and some are more self-involved than others, and some you have to tiptoe around a bit - and Joe was one of those.
"There was a sort of fragility at the heart of his personality that meant that you never completely felt like you could relax. That was was how I took it."
Exotic's compelling character and the inherent escapades that came with it almost enticed Theroux into making his original documentary about the man himself, a decade prior to the release of Netflix international smash hit Tiger King.
Ultimately this didn't happen, but the result is that Theroux had an abnormally large archive of footage to draw upon for his upcoming documentary.
He said: "I knew that we were on to just a deeply weird and compelling story. And although it ended up being called America's Most Dangerous Pets and featuring an ensemble of different big cat and animal owners, there was a period when I thought, 'Well maybe we should make it all about Joe'.
"We filmed there for, I think, eight or nine days at the park, and I talked to him about his boyfriend - there were three of them, the boyfriend and the husband - and his relationships, and the other people at the park, and his obsession with Carole Baskin.
"All of that, I had lots of conversations with him about, and I thought, 'Well maybe it could even be a little series, like a sort of quasi docu-soap, or two-parter - The World of Joe Exotic, or something'.
"In the end, we didn't go in that direction, but the result is that when I went back, there's a lot more in the archive than you would normally expect from a past project."
Louis Theroux: Shooting Joe Exotic will air on BBC Two at 9pm on Monday 5 April.