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Elizabeth Banks: ‘Cocaine Bear’ Is More Crazed, Coked Out than Henry Hill in ‘Goodfellas’

Late "Goodfellas" icon Ray Liotta stars in the upcoming horror-comedy, helmed by Banks.

Cocaine Bear, Goodfellas

“Cocaine Bear,” “Goodfellas”


Elizabeth Banks isn’t sniffing around the truth when it comes to just how powerful “Cocaine Bear” will be.

The director became attached to the script based on the true story of a bear that ingested millions of dollars worth of cocaine during a 1985 botched drug smuggling operation that crash landed into a forest in Georgia. The real bear died of an overdose, but in the upcoming “Cocaine Bear” film, it goes on a killing rampage while searching for its next fix. Keri Russell, Brooklynn Prince, and Christian Convery are the bear’s unsuspecting victims, while O’Shea Jackson Jr., Alden Ehrenreich, and Ray Liotta (in his final film role) portray drug dealers. Liotta died at age 67 in May 2022.

“No matter who you are in life, even if you’re Henry Hill [Liotta’s character in ‘Goodfellas’], if you meet a bear that’s high on cocaine, you are the underdog in that situation,” Banks told Entertainment Weekly about the bloody action. “And that’s what provided a lot of the comedic engine, you know? These are just people who aren’t prepared or have the capacity to deal with a bear who’s high on coke.”

Banks added that the real “meat” of the film is the father-son dynamic between Liotta and Ehrenreich’s respective characters, with a dash of jealousy for Jackson’s relationship with Liotta’s role.

“Everybody’s going through something,” Banks shared. “It almost feels like a Coen Brothers movie with a big horror element with the bear.”

The “Charlie’s Angels” writer-director added, “I tend to hide comedies inside of other genres. ‘Pitch Perfect’ is a comedy inside of a musical. ‘Charlie’s Angels’ is a comedy inside of an action vehicle. This is a comedy inside of a horror movie. I love making people laugh. I love entertaining audiences. I think laughing and screaming and squirming are all valid emotions in the movie theater, and I know that this movie delivers on that level.”

But the real cocaine bear met a more tragic end than a comedic one, as Banks noted.

“I felt a lot of sympathy for the bear,” Banks said. “Like, wow, this bear — which, in real life, ended up dead after eating all this coke — ended up being sort of collateral damage in this War on Drugs. And I just thought, Well, then this movie can be a revenge story for the bear. And it just gave me a point of view and a purpose for making it. Like, there’s a real message here: We should not fuck with nature, nature will win.”

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