Cocaine Bear begins with a drug smuggler dropping their cargo load of product across a forest in Georgia, which a bear happens across and consumes a duffel bag full of cocaine. Cocaine Bear follows a group of locals and tourists in Georgia who do everything they can to survive after a 500-pound black bear goes on a coke-fueled killing spree. Meanwhile, a mother searches for her missing daughter in the forest, and two drug dealers are on the hunt for the missing cocaine, putting them squarely in the bear’s cross-hairs.
Elizabeth Banks’ new dark comedy, Cocaine Bear, is shockingly based on true events. However, whereas in the movie the bear goes on a killing spree, the actual bear in question died shortly after consuming the cocaine. Cocaine Bear is the third feature that Banks has directed and her first foray into the subgenre of comedy thriller or comedy horror.
Banks spoke with Screen Rant about her new film, Cocaine Bear. She explains how parenthood is the emotional touchstone of the movie for all the different characters, including the bear. Banks also breaks down how the movie represents nature always defeating man and how the movie offers a sense of justice or revenge for the actual Cocaine Bear.
Elizabeth Banks on Cocaine Bear
Screen Rant: Elizabeth, Cocaine Bear was circled on my calendar. This movie did not disappoint. This is my favorite film so far this year. What inspired you to make this movie? Is it a way to help the real Cocaine Bear find a sense of vengeance for their death?
Elizabeth Banks: 100%. Oh, my gosh. You get me. I read the script, and I went down the internet rabbit hole into the real story. And I found out that in the real story, the bear consumed this cocaine, OD’d, and died. And I thought I was so sad about that. It really depressed me that, that bear became collateral damage in this insane war on drugs. And I just felt like this movie was the redemption story for that bear.
How did you have me rooting for the bear watching this movie, when they’re on a murderous rampage throughout?
Elizabeth Banks: I really felt like we had to find the moment when that’s exactly what happened. You think you understand who the villain is in the movie, and then at a certain point, we tip the scales, and you start to realize, “Oh, right. The bear didn’t do anything wrong. This bear is innocent. It just wants more cocaine. It’s been fed by the bad guys.” And I think to me, that was also the theme in the movie that I wanted to explore: man’s hubris when it comes to nature.
This idea that we feel like we can control nature, we can control animals, we’re top of the food chain, ba-ba-ba. And I know that nature is going to win. We actually cannot compete. This Earth, if it doesn’t want us, it will get rid of us. So we got to watch out. And I think this movie, it should be a little reminder that we need to be more cautious and more caring when it comes to nature.
I loved the struggle of parenthood that’s at the center of this movie for many of the characters. Why did you want to bring that emotional touchdown for the protagonist?
Elizabeth Banks: I’m an actor first. When I read scripts, I’m reading for the characters and their journeys and their conflicts. And man, Jimmy Warden’s script just had this in spades. Every character had something interesting going on and something really grounded. Because the idea of the bear on cocaine is crazy. I don’t need to do anything crazier. What I actually needed to do was ground these characters in their real life dramas. So a mother trying to connect with her daughter after the divorce. A father mourning the loss of his wife, trying to connect with his son.
A dad trying to keep his son in the family business when that son wants to be his own man. There just felt, to me, so many relatable, interesting parenting. And then we come to find out that we’ve got a Mama Bear in the movie, too. That, to me, it was for sure a thrust. It connected all the stories. It was all about, what is our legacy that we’re leaving behind? How do we care for our kids? How do we take care of each other? The movie has a lot of heart when it boils down.
Your sense of comedy blending with humanity, absurdly intense comedy, and tension feels like the perfect combination for the DC Universe helmed by James Gunn. I know that you’re a frequent collaborator with James. Is a superhero film in the DC Universe something that you’d want to tackle next? Because you’ve done comedy through musicals and action.
Elizabeth Banks: Look, they have incredible characters. That stable of characters are epic. And that’s what I care about. I would love to do anything that has not even DC, wherever. I just want a great character journey. I love being able to bring audiences along for whatever that is and in whatever form it takes. I’m excited to see what James does with the universe with the next movies. It’s really thrilling because he’s such an exciting filmmaker and so on. Slither for sure was an influence on this movie.
Amazing job on this film. This is the best movie I’ve seen so far this year. Thank you so much for your time.
Elizabeth Banks: Thank you. You really got it. I really appreciate you. Thank you. You got everything about it. Amazing.
About Cocaine Bear
A drug smuggler drops their supply in Georgia and a 500 pound black bear stumbles across a duffel bag full of cocaine. After the bear consumes the cocaine no one is safe in the forest as the bear goes on a murderous coke fueled rampage.
Check back soon for our other Cocaine Bear interview with Alden Ehenreich & O’Shea Jackson.
Next: Cocaine Bear Needs To Remember The Lessons Of Snakes On A Plane