Screenwriter Jimmy Warden has a highly relatable reason for writing the black (bear) comedy movie Cocaine Bear – falling down an internet rabbit hole. Whom amongst us hasn’t had a weird story catch our eye while mindlessly scrolling, only to get deeper and deeper into the story until it’s 2am and we can’t remember where we were?
In a new interview with Variety mainly with director Elizabeth Banks, the origin story of the Cocaine Bear is laid bare (pun entirely intended); “screenwriter Jimmy Warden was scrolling through Twitter when he came upon a photo of a stuffed black bear with the caption Pablo Escobear: the cocaine bear. ‘I was like, ‘What the fuck is that?’ Warden says. ‘I went down a complete rabbit hole, just clicking and clicking and clicking.'”
The true story behind Cocaine Bear is pretty incredible; “Warden learned about how a drug trafficker named Andrew Thornton II had died in a parachute accident in September 1985, during a botched drug drop over the Appalachian Mountains. He was found dead in a driveway in Knoxville, Tenn., wearing Gucci loafers and strapped to roughly $15 million of cocaine. Four months later, the remains of a black bear were discovered in northern Georgia near 40 packages of cocaine from that same drop. They’d all been torn open, presumably by the bear.”
Warden felt immediately that he wanted to tell the story, and not just Thornton’s side of it. “I knew that the central character had to be a bear who did drugs,” Warden says.
Elizabeth Banks had one stipulation regarding directing the movie, the studio had to commit to calling it Cocaine Bear. “I lived through [Kevin Smith’s rom-com] Zach and Miri Make a Porno, and the title was a problem,” she says. “But I think Zach and Miri Make a Porno now would be like, ‘Whatever.’ I don’t really think anyone would even shy away from it. Because words don’t matter anymore.”
Cocaine Bear is in cinemas from February 24. In the meantime, check out our guide to the best thriller movies.