Cocaine Bear has arrived in theaters, but first, here’s the real report from December 22, 1985. AP News reported an incident in Blue Ridge, Georgia regarding a bear: “Investigators searching for cocaine dropped by an airborne smuggler have found a ripped-up shipment of the sweet-smelling powder and the remains of a bear that apparently died of a multimillion-dollar high.”
A 175-pound black bear was found dead near a duffle bag and about $2 million worth of cocaine that had been ripped open and scattered over the hillside. Examiners said the bear overdosed from eating the cocaine.
The question is, what if that bear didn’t die from the cocaine? Instead, it goes on a cocaine-fueled rage in the forest. Now we have a fictionalized Hollywood movie — Cocaine Bear.
The news story in a lot of ways seems too far-fetch to turn into a movie. The writers of Fast & Furious movies found an opportunity for a “Pablo EscoBear” story that could turn into a cult classic.
Screenwriter Jimmy Warden pitched the script to producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. There were one board from page one of the script titled Cocaine Bear.
“When the movie’s pitched, you hear the word ‘Cocaine,’ you’re like I’m not sure what to think of this,” Lord says. “Then when you hear the word ‘Bear,’ you’re like: I’m all in.”
At first, the Cocaine Bear trailer felt like a satire. Even fan-made. Nope. Cocaine Bear is a real movie. And for some reason, with all the pre-packaged franchise movies spilling out into theaters, this loosely-based-on-a-true-story R-rated film can actually be a breath of fresh air.
Actor Elizabeth Banks takes the helm for Cocaine Bear. Directing the film, she hopes that it reaches the goal.
“Hopefully the film lives up to the title,” Banks says, smiling. “That was the goal.”
The Cocaine Bear trailer was watched more than 25 million times. Everything about Banks’ film is propelled by tongue-in-cheek humor and audiences thinking, “this is actually a real movie.”
A tweet on the film’s official Twitter account said, “I’m the bear who ate cocaine. This is my story.”
Not many comedies attract people to go the theaters these days and studio movies are driven by well-known intellectual properties like Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Cocaine Bear is now joining the party and bringing the blow.
“You have to demonstrate theatricality to get the green light. It just means you have to swing the bat a little harder,” Lord says. “In this world that’s increasingly mechanized, things that don’t feel mechanized have really special value.”
“Certainly, this movie was not mandated by a corporation,” Miller added, laughing. “It’s a thing we somehow snuck through the system. That’s how we love to make all our movies, like: ‘I can’t believe they let us get away with this.’”
After hearing about the 1985 news story, Warden wrote the script. Warden was a production assistant with the Lord and Miller produced film, 21 Jump Street. He presented the script to his previous bosses and hope they would bite.
“What’s funny is that we thought it would be difficult because of the subject matter. But surprisingly, they were excited right from the jump and didn’t shy away from the movie, its tone or even its title,” says Miller. “We thought at some point, someone was going to say, ‘Well you can’t call it ‘Cocaine Bear.’ You have to call it ‘A Walk in the Woods.’”
Elizabeth Banks made her directorial debut in 2015’s Pitch Perfect 2. She continued to direct with 2019’s Charlie’s Angels. With Universal distributing and Lord and Miller producing, Banks saw an opportunity to actually make a gory slasher-type thriller with comedy for the big screen in the form of a bear high on cocaine.
“Most people are surprised that it is a real thing, and very surprised that I’m the person that made it,” says Banks, laughing. “I just got a text from someone who was like, ‘I’ve been hearing about this movie and I had no idea you made it.’”
AP New says Cocaine Bear takes the true story and re-imagines it in a what if scenario. What might happen “if the bear didn’t quickly die, but went on a coke-fueled rampage through a national forest, terrorizing park wardens, campers and drug dealers seeking the lost shipment. After an initial taste, the bear goes after more cocaine with all the zeal of Yogi pursuing a picnic basket.”
If Cocaine Bear becomes a box-office hit, it may become a franchise with sequels and spinoffs. Just imagine the possibilities. Hopefully now animal rights group takes this film seriously.
Cocaine Bear movie tickets are now available. See the Cocaine Bear trailer below. You can read our review here.