Louis Theroux opens up about interviewing ‘Tiger King’s Joe Exotic

"Clearly, he got to me"

Louis Theroux has opened up about interviewing Tiger King’s Joe Exotic in a new interview.

Theroux and Exotic originally met 10 years ago when Theroux was making America’s Most Dangerous Pets where he interviewed Exotic. Theroux has recently explored what happened in the intervening years between his 2011 documentary and last year’s Tiger King on Netflix via a new show, Louis Theroux: Shooting Joe Exotic.

Speaking to The Guardian, Theroux says he felt disturbed watching old footage from his documentary – especially during a moment where he hugs Exotic after asking him some challenging questions.


Theroux says: “We do end up hugging. Which is sort of the most revealing part of the exchange, the effect that Joe appears to have had on me.

“I seem to need him to reassure me that he’s OK after I asked some difficult questions. Clearly, he got to me in some way. I remember, at the time, I felt guilty and stressed that I was putting him through pain. But, y’know, all this – it’s classic cult leader stuff.”

Tiger King
Joe Exotic in ‘Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness’. Credit: Netflix

When asked if he was asked whether or not he was envious of Tiger King’s success last year – which was watched by an estimated 64million households – Theroux adds: “If anything, I felt a little bit vindicated.”

“That this was a good story in 2011, and I planted my small flag in the subject early on. We were the first crew that ever visited Joe. Am I annoyed that we didn’t make more of it? No. There was no murder-for-hire case in 2011. Joe’s life hadn’t reached its final act. There was only half a story. It was just a matter of timing.”


Speaking about his new documentary in a statement last year, Theroux added: “This is one of those quintessentially American stories, taking place in the heartland of Oklahoma, with a cast of characters almost too colourful and larger-than-life to be believed.

“I spent eight or nine days filming at the park back in 2011, over the course of three separate visits. I’d forgotten how much we shot until I went back into the footage during lockdown.

He continued: “It’s extraordinary how much was there. Since then the story just got stranger and bigger, and in going back at the end of last year I uncovered a real-life drama that took me in directions I never could have expected.”

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