The true story behind the 'Cocaine Bear' movie, a bizarre fictional retelling of a real-life black bear that was high on cocaine
- A new horror-comedy called "Cocaine Bear" is set to hit theaters on Friday.
- The story follows a vicious black bear on a bloody rampage while, yes, high on cocaine.
Elizabeth Banks' new movie "Cocaine Bear," starring Keri Russell and Ray Liotta, who died in May of 2022, hits theaters on Friday.
The title of the horror-comedy doesn't leave much up to the imagination for the plot of the film — it's about a bear on a violent rampage while it's high on cocaine. Though bizarre, the tale was inspired by the true story of a real 175-pound black bear in Georgia that ingested cocaine dropped by a known drug smuggler in the 1980's.
In September 1985, investigators found the body of Andrew Thornton, a convicted drug smuggler and former police officer, in the backyard of a house in Knoxville, Tennessee, wearing a parachute, Gucci loafers, and 77 pounds of cocaine strapped to his waist, The Knoxville News Sentinel reported. Agents believe Thornton was aboard a drug flight from Colombia and dropped the shipment into the forest, intending to collect it later, according to The Washington Post.
Authorities went on a search for the rest of Thornton's supply, suspecting he had a larger shipment given his history of drug smuggling, according to The News Sentinel. They believed he threw it out of the small plane prior to parachuting because he was carrying too heavy a load, Gary Garner, who worked for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, told the Associated Press at the time.
While the "Cocaine Bear" trailer briefly mentions the airborne cocaine falling into Knoxville, Banks and film writer James Warden did take some creative liberties with the original story — namely in the bloody rampage of the coked-up creature.
In reality, investigators found an empty duffel bag believed to have contained cocaine alongside the remains of a bear that apparently died of a multimillion-dollar high in December 1985. Investigators said the bear had been dead for about four weeks before it was found in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia.
Forty packages of cocaine — about 88 pounds in total and valuing as much as $20 million— had been ripped open and scattered across the hillside nearby in Fannin County, about 80 miles north of Atlanta, the AP reported.
"The bear got to it before we could, and he tore the duffel bag open, got him some cocaine and OD'd (overdosed)," Garner said. "There's nothing left but bones and a big hide."
The black bear that ingested the cocaine died of an apparent overdose after absorbing three or four grams of cocaine into its bloodstream — though it could have eaten more, Dr. Kenneth Alonso, the state's chief medical examiner, told the AP at the time.
"The question is: What happened to that duffel bag?" Alonso said. "The bear does not account for the full duffel bag."
Authorities also found two more duffel bags within 100 yards of the bear's body, the AP reported, totaling 218 pounds of cocaine. In early November, investigators found about 75 pounds of the drug in another recovered duffel bag.
"Cocaine Bear" is set to hit theaters on February 24, 2023, but until then, visitors who are keen on seeing the infamous antagonist itself in Lexington, Kentucky, where a retail store Fun Mall has a stuffed bear it claims to be the original "Cocaine Bear," which they have nicknamed "Pablo EskoBear."
Watch the trailer here:
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