ST. SAINT PETERSBURG, Florida (AP) – The founder of the Florida Big Cat Shelter featured in the hit TV series The King of the Tigers is suing Netflix and the production company to prevent her from using interviews and footage in her upcoming sequel.
Netflix objects that Big Cat Rescue founder Carol Baskin and her husband agreed in writing that the material could be used in the future and that she is trying to block the company’s right to free speech by the First Amendment.
The lawsuit, pending in federal court in Tampa, is the latest twist in a saga featuring Baskin and Joe Exotic – real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage – who were at the center of the documentary series The King of the Tigers: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.
The sequel is due to air on November 17, Netflix told a court on Monday.
The first series was extremely popular and aired in March 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic restrictions forced people to stay at home. It attracted about 64 million home viewers in its first month, and was nominated for six Primetime Emmy Awards, according to the company.
Much of the series focuses on the dispute between Baskin and Maldonado Passage over the treatment of tigers, lions and other big cats at the Oklahoma Zoo, which he previously directed. Maldonado Passage is imprisoned after he was found guilty of trying to hire someone to kill Baskin, a story told in the first episode.
In his lawsuit, Baskin claims that Royal Goode Productions Inc., which produced The Tiger King for Netflix, made her and her husband Howard Baskin believe their footage would only be used in one documentary. Baskin also objects to her portrayal in the first episode, especially the insinuation that she had something to do with the mysterious disappearance of her previous husband Don Lewis in 1997, who was pronounced dead in 2002, but whose remains have never been found.
“The Baskins believed that any sequel, albeit odious, would not include any of their videos,” the lawsuit says. “The Tiger King I was particularly harsh and unfair in his portrayal of the Baskins and Big Cat Rescue.”
Baskin declined to comment further on the lawsuit Tuesday, but recently told The Associated Press about an upcoming two-part Discovery + series, Carol Baskin’s Cage Fight, to raise awareness of zoos that allow petting and private ownership of tigers. animals. Baskin advocated better treatment of big cats.
“We have never, never misled us or behaved as dishonestly as the producers of Tiger King,” Baskin told AP. “So they were just a fluke. I mean, it wasn’t like it was our first experience and we were never going to do it again. It was like, “Okay, well, it was terrible, but it’s just them.” This is not an industry. ”
Netflix, however, states that the Baskins explicitly agreed in written releases that all of their interviews and footage filmed at their Tampa cat sanctuary could be used in future projects. In addition, Netlix lawyers say that forging the sequel is tantamount to an unconstitutional restriction of the right to free speech, and that the Baskins can only file a claim for damages after it goes on air.
“The defendants did not need to get permission from the plaintiffs to use the footage in Tiger King 2 or its commercials,” Netflix attorney Rachel Fugate said in court filings. The Baskins “have no claims, let alone claims that may elude the First Amendment defendants’ defense.”
Netflix also notes in its filing that Baskin used the popularity of The Tiger King for her own advertising purposes, even appearing on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and essentially becoming a “pop culture phenomenon” due to the program, company lawyers say. … said.
The federal judge in Tampa overseeing the suit has yet to make a decision as of Tuesday afternoon.
As for Maldonado Passage, the appellate court recently ruled that his 22-year prison sentence in Baskin’s hired murder case should be reduced.… He is being held in federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas.
Maldonado Passage also announced last week that he has an aggressive form of prostate cancer, and on his twitter asked people to pray for him.
Associated Press writer Alicia Rancilio of New York City contributed to this story.