Elizabeth Banks scores her next directing gig on Cocaine Bear

As the title suggests, the film will recount a true incident concerning some ursine narcotics antics.


Charles Bramesco


Everyone’s got their own issues with cinema: too many superhero movies; not enough mid-budget character pieces; everything’s too short, everything’s too long; CGI is ruining action; analog fetishism is holding back technical advancements; and so on. But for those movie lovers whose main complaint is a paucity of films about bears consuming ungodly quantities of narcotics and going absolutely buckwild, today is a good day.

The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed reports of a new film with a hook too odd not to have been ripped from the headlines: Cocaine Bear will dramatize a real-life 1985 incident in which a Kentucky black bear consumed over 70 pounds of coke that had been airdropped by drug smuggler Andrew Thornton. The bear then summarily died of nature’s most unlikely overdose.

Elizabeth Banks will direct the film, her behind-the-camera CV consisting of Pitch Perfect 2 and the regrettable Charlie’s Angels reboot having apparently made her the ideal fit for off-beat black humor such as this. Those unsure of how it will all coalesce may take some solace in knowing that studio-comedy veterans Phil Lord and Chris Miller have also joined the project as producers.

Of course, the big question is how screenwriter Jimmy Warden (who I hope, for the sake of this film, only coincidentally shares a name with the screenwriter behind McG’s deeply bad The Babysitter: Killer Queen) will massage what seems to be a pretty simple series of events into a three-act structure. Could the Cocaine Bear legend be a jumping-off point for an American Made sort of story about narco-runners and the larger-than-life challenges their line of work deals them?

Cocaine Bear has taken on his own legendary mystique in the area surrounding Lexington, revered by locals as both a folk hero and a martyr in a cautionary tale on the hazards of drug use. He’ll have to prove his crossover appeal in a live-action vehicle first, but if that has legs, a Cocaine Bear animated adventure series will be all but inevitable.

Published 10 Mar 2021

Tags: Chris Miller Elizabeth Banks Phil Lord

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