Is it based on real events?

Watch Cocaine Bear trailer

The story behind the Cocaine Bear sounds too incredible to be true.

Elizabeth Banks’ new horror-comedy, set to premiere next month, tells the story of a black bear who turns into a bloody rage after ingesting a large dose of cocaine.

The film’s tagline claims to be “inspired by real events,” but how much related to Cocaine Bear actually happened?

The true story behind the Cocaine Bear

The story of Cocaine Bear is loosely based on the events of a drug trafficking operation that went horribly wrong in September 1985.

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Andrew Thornton, a former US narcotics officer, was dropping duffel bags of cocaine on a light plane to Georgia while smuggling from Colombia.

He jumped after he was reported to have problems with the engine, but his head hit the tail of the plane and his parachute failed to open.

Cocaine Bear tells the story of a drug-fueled black bear who goes into a lethal rage.

Cocaine Bear tells the story of a drug-fed black bear who goes on a deadly attack. (Universal Pictures)

The 40-year-old died after colliding with a driveway in Knoxville, Tennessee, 50 miles away.

He wore night vision goggles, a bulletproof vest, and Gucci loafers, and was carrying guns, knives, thousands of dollars in cash and $15 million worth of cocaine packages.

The autopilot plane was later found crashed in Hayesville, North Carolina.

Three months later, a 79-pound black bear was found dead after eating cocaine from a bag left by Thornton in Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest.

Gary Garner, an official with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), said, “The bear came before us and tore open the gym bag, gave him some cocaine and drugged him. Nothing was left. [of the bear] but bones and great skin.”

Ray Liotta in Cocaine Bear

Cocaine Bear plays the late Ray Liotta in one of his last performances. (Universal Pictures)

It’s unclear how much the bear swallowed. All 40 stacks of cocaine, totaling 40 kg and worth $20 million, were torn and empty. An autopsy found that the animal only absorbed three or four grams of cocaine into its bloodstream, despite having eaten more.

However, there is no evidence that the bear had a rage as depicted in Cocaine Bear. In fact, the animal probably died soon after taking the drug.

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“It wouldn’t have taken long to kill him,” said Fran Wiley, another GBI official. “He could have eaten half a pound and that would have killed him.”

According to the forensic officer who conducted the autopsy, the animal’s stomach was “literally filled to the brim with cocaine.” “There is no mammal on the planet that could survive this. Brain hemorrhage, respiratory failure, hyperthermia, kidney failure, heart failure, stroke. You name it, it got the moon.”

Keri Russell at Cocaine Bear

Keri Russell in Elizabeth Banks’ new movie Cocaine Bear. (Universal Pictures)

Legend has it that the bear was stuffed and gifted to a visitor center near the forest before it disappeared in the 1990s.

It is said to have ended up in a pawn shop in Nashville, Tennessee, before being bought by country music legend Waylon Jennings. Today, the Kentucky Entertainment Mall in Lexington claims to have the stuffed remains of “Pablo Esco-bear.”

According to director Elizabeth Banks, the film’s message is simple: “If you make fun of nature, nature will make fun of you”. He told Total Film magazine: “I thought this bear was collateral damage. [in] a broken war on drugs. I empathized with him a lot. I felt this movie could be a bear’s revenge story.”

Cocaine Bear

Comedy-thriller loosely based on true events. (Universal Pictures)

Who is in the Cocaine Bear cast?

Cocaine Bear plays the late Ray Liotta in one of his last performances. The Goodfellas actor, who died last year at the age of 67, plays drug lord Dentwood on a cocaine hunt.

Also in the cast is American actor Keri Russell, who plays a worried mother in search of her missing daughter, played by jungle rising star Brooklynn Prince.

Other stars include Modern Family actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Alden Ehrenreich (Solo: A Star Wars Story) and Sweet Tooth’s Christian Convery-Jennings.

The film was produced by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, best known for their work on The Lego Movie and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse animated films, and written by Jimmy Warden.

Cocaine Bear It will hit theaters on February 24.

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