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Louis Theroux looks back at explosive row with Joe Exotic: 'I knew he was p****d off'

Famed documentary maker Louis Theroux, 50, has reunited with Tiger King star Joe Exotic, in a new series to help people “understand who he really is” following the huge success of Netflix’s seven-parter Murder, Mayhem, Madness, which hit worldwide dominance in 2020. The journalist, who has previously interviewed the flamboyant proprietor in 2011 while visiting his big cat wildlife park three times in order to learn more about the breeding industry, recalled the significant tension while filming the end of the doc, which saw the zookeeper storm out mid interview after claiming Theroux had an “agenda” against him.
“I knew that he was p****d off,” the broadcaster looked back at his time chatting with Exotic in a recent interview.

“He thought that I had an animal rights agenda. I also knew that I needed an ending for the documentary and needed to be seen to be holding him to account in some way, or at least posing some fairly pointed questions.”

But before he could get that far, Exotic lost his temper and refused to finish the interview.

“He ripped off his microphone and said, ‘F*** you. F*** Carole Baskin. F*** Tippi Hedren. F*** PETA. Yes, my animals are happy. Yes, I’m going to go on breeding.’ He had a tantrum,” Theroux recalled.

READ MORE: Carol Vorderman’s likeness to Carole Baskin shared by Kerry Katona

“Any time someone rips their mic off and tells you to f*** yourself… I won’t say it’s never happened before, but it’s not something you typically forget!”

The strop he remembered quite clearly, but he had to be reminded of how the aftermath played out and how he managed to get Exotic back on side by watching old tapes of the footage from 2011.

Theroux continued: “I said, ‘Joe, I’m just asking these questions. I don’t mean to upset you. Can we just keep talking?'”

The big cat breeder’s anger subsided as he decided to return to the set and finish the final scenes.

“I said, ‘Are we buds again?’ And he goes on, ‘I guess.’ And I said, ‘Can I have a hug?’, and went over and I hugged him,” the journalist went on to explain.

“What struck me was the fact that I seemed to need some emotional reassurance that he was OK. I felt protective of him, and I didn’t like the fact that I’d upset him.”

Although he described the feeling as “odd”, Theroux suggested that Exotic’s confidence almost protected his insecurities, but that some viewers saw through the smoke and mirrors.

It was in fact his likeable and infectious characteristics that captured the hearts of fans across the world, despite the blurred lines surrounding his alleged revenge plots towards rival sanctuary owners; a story that is told in great depth in Netflix’s investigation into the dark underworld of breeding exotic animals which propelled Exotic into the spotlight.

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Theroux’s America’s Most Dangerous Pets is still available to watch on iPlayer and now a decade later, he has revisited the Tiger King carnival for a new, feature-length documentary, Shooting Joe Exotic.

And while this documentary is solely focused on the eccentric exotic zookeeper, he is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence on a “murder-for-hire” charge of his rival Carole Baskin.

Instead, the film draws on new interviews with those around him, as well as looking back at the unused footage from the 2011 trip.

But it does deal with the deadly plot, which Theroux admitted “makes virtually no reference to Tiger King, the series”.

“It’s something like a programme I might have made if Tiger King hadn’t existed,” he quipped to Radio Times.

But it also looks into the consequences of fame that came from the Tiger King phenomenom and those involved in it.

It has been rumoured that several dramatisations of Exotic’s story are in the pipeline, something the journalist confessed he would “love” to be apart of to make “television history”.

Theroux’s full interview is available to read now in Radio Times.