'No greater metaphor for chaos than a bear high on cocaine': True story behind this year's strangest film

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"Investigators searching for cocaine dropped by an airborne smuggler person recovered a ripped-up shipment of the sweet-smelling pulverization and the remains of a carnivore that seemingly died of a multimillion-dollar high."

So began the Associated Press quality agency's 23 December 1985 study connected 1 of the astir bizarre drug-trafficking stories successful history.

The 175lb achromatic bear's assemblage was discovered successful the mountains of the Chattahoochee National Forest, astir 80 miles northbound of Atlanta, Georgia, and conscionable southbound of the Tennessee border, adjacent to a duffel container and 40 packages of the cause that had been ripped unfastened and scattered implicit a hillside.

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Redemption for existent cocaine bear

The cocaine had fallen from the skies 3 months earlier courtesy of erstwhile narcotics researcher and service paratrooper turned cause smuggler Andrew Thornton; helium had intended to parachute down from a tiny level implicit Knoxville, Tennessee, but ended up falling to his death.

Wearing nighttime imaginativeness goggles and a bulletproof vest, and carrying guns and knives, according to reports from the time, his assemblage was recovered successful a neighbourhood driveway. His unmanned Cessna airplane crashed into a upland successful North Carolina astir an hr later.

The existent communicative of "Pablo Escobear" present forms the ground for the commencement of caller gore-comedy Cocaine Bear, directed by histrion and filmmaker Elizabeth Banks. It is not for the faint-hearted: there's humor and guts and precise grisly ends (pun intended), and a carnivore snorting cocaine wherever it tin get it, including severed limbs.

Banks, prima of films including the Pitch Perfect and Hunger Games series, tells Sky News she went "fully down the net rabbit hole" erstwhile she archetypal heard the story.

"We besides were capable to get the constabulary reports from erstwhile Andrew's assemblage was recovered and we usage a batch of accusation from assorted sources and enactment it into the movie," she says. "Everything that Andrew Thornton is wearing erstwhile his assemblage is recovered connected the ground, from his Gucci loafers to his bullet-proof vest, that was each written down successful the constabulary report."

Banks received the publication successful April 2020, conscionable arsenic the satellite had gone into lockdown. "We were getting into this planetary pandemic and I felt chaos each astir maine and trauma everywhere. I work this publication and thought, well, there's nary greater metaphor for chaos than a carnivore that's precocious connected cocaine."

What truly happened to Cocaine Bear?

 Universal Studios

Image: Pic: Universal Studios

An authoritative from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation told the Associated Press astatine the clip that Thornton fell and died arsenic helium was carrying excessively dense a load portion parachuting.

Before they recovered the bear's body, investigators had located packages of cocaine successful identical duffel bags astatine 2 different locations.

Officials said the animal, which had been dormant for astir 4 weeks by the clip it was discovered, ended up eating respective cardinal dollars' worthy of the cause and that its tummy was "packed to the brim". Each of the 40 packages was believed to person contained 1 kilogram, and was valued astatine arsenic overmuch arsenic $20m (£16.7m) astatine the time.

In Cocaine Bear, the bear's drug-taking leads to a gory sidesplitting spree, alternatively than its ain death; the movie takes successful Thornton's leap successful the archetypal fewer minutes, but the immense bulk of the screentime is dedicated to what mightiness person happened had the carnal survived.

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Despite the film's comedy, the existent communicative is tragic. Banks says her archetypal absorption erstwhile she heard the existent communicative was "a batch of sympathy" for the bear. "And I thought, wow, this publication is really an unthinkable redemption communicative for that bear, who was collateral harm successful this brainsick warfare connected drugs."

In existent life, "Pablo Escobear" has present gained thing of a cult presumption successful definite areas successful the US - and inevitably wider present pursuing the merchandise of the film. The animal's assemblage was preserved and is present connected show astatine the Kentucky For Kentucky memorabilia and tourer store. (Thornton was from Kentucky).

"A carnivore dying of a cause overdose is truly sad," says writer Jimmy Warden. "This [film] was astir redressing oregon rewriting the communicative for the bear, who was truly the unfortunate successful this full thing. But my nonsubjective was ever conscionable to make thing that was fun. And I deliberation that the movie decidedly does it precise well."

Ray Liotta's last performance

 Daveed (O'Shea Jackson, Jr), Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich), Officer Reba (Ayoola Smart) and Syd (Ray Liotta) successful  Cocaine Bear, directed by Elizabeth Banks. Pic: Universal Studios

Image: L-R: O'Shea Jackson Jr, Alden Ehrenreich, Ayoola Smart and Ray Liotta. Pic: Universal Studios

Cocaine Bear stars Keri Russell, O'Shea Jackson Jr, Isiah Whitlock Jr, Alden Ehrenreich, Margo Martindale and Ray Liotta, successful his last movie show earlier his decease successful 2022. He plays cause kingpin Syd, who is trying to retrieve Thornton's stash with the assistance of his lad Eddie (Ehrenreich) and fixer Daveed (Jackson Jr).

"There's ever truthful overmuch vulnerability and sweetness and bosom successful each of his performances, adjacent erstwhile he's playing these highly menacing characters," says Ehrenreich, known for films including Hail, Caesar! and Solo: A Star Wars Story. "That truly bore itself retired with him personally, helium was conscionable this precise saccharine antheral and having a batch of fun."

"Ray is simply a fable successful the industry," says Jackson Jr (Just Mercy, Straight Outta Compton). "As a performer, it's a bucket-list happening to enactment with greats, and to beryllium capable to enactment with him connected 1 of his last projects is an honour and a blessing that I deliberation we each volition cherish."

'Their sphincter sucks up successful their seat...'

 Universal Studios

Image: Banks pictured connected set. Pic: Universal Studios

Liotta's cause lord is 1 of a motley unit of unfortunate radical who find themselves roaming the nationalist park, from tourists and a parent looking for her daughter, to constabulary officers and parkland wardens.

Banks says determination is simply a relatability to each the characters. "You know, the characters aren't precocious connected cocaine. They're conscionable trying to get done their day. And I loved that thought of telling this underdog story, with the large hook of the rampaging bear."

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Ah, but this isn't wholly true. We spot 2 funny children trying it out. Did Banks deliberation this was controversial? "The movie's called Cocaine Bear," she says. "It's a big, bold, audacious idea. And truthful we didn't shy distant from big, bold choices.

"I deliberation they're really appropriately aged to beryllium funny astir those sorts of things. I retrieve I was a 12 twelvemonth aged miss successful 1985 and I skipped school. I really don't think... I deliberation they spit it each out, I don't deliberation they're precise precocious connected cocaine. And if they are, it's the lone mode that..." We'll permission it there; nary spoilers here.

Ultimately, Banks says she wanted to marque a amusive film. "I truly enjoyed the powerfulness that directing this benignant of visceral, tense, exciting, comic movie allowed maine to person with the audience. I cognize due to the fact that I've seen it with radical that they person to look away, you know, their sphincter sucks up successful their seat. They're a small ill. It's an unthinkable consciousness of powerfulness that I get to instrumentality the assemblage connected this journey, connected this ride. I'm precise overmuch enjoying it."

Cocaine Bear is retired successful cinemas now

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