The ‘grizzly’ truth behind ‘Cocaine Bear,’ the revenge story that never was


Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

“Cocaine Bear.” If you’ve heard of it, I’m sure it was followed by “what were they thinking?” And if you haven’t heard of it, well, now you have. The 2023 horror-comedy (hor-com?) film features a ton of stars all known as “that one actor” and, of course, a bear hopped up on cocaine. The bear embarks on a drug-fueled rampage

The truth, though, is stranger, and certainly sadder, than fiction.

In 1985, drug smuggler Andrew Thornton was, as you do, flying with 880 pounds of cocaine, according to Variety. He thought Feds were following him, so he made the smart choice to dump some of the cocaine out, as well as bringing some with him while parachuting out. He was found dead in a Tenneesse driveway, armed with $15 million worth of cocaine and Gucci loafers.

Discovered four months later in Georgia, a 175 pound black bear was found dead, sans Gucci, of a cocaine overdose. The bear had around three grams of cocaine in its bloodstream, accompanied by 35 pounds of cocaine in its stomach. The bear had ingested 40 of Thornton unopened containers of the drug, though not all. Maybe the remaining cocaine was the key to making the bloodshed of “Cocaine Bear” a reality.

Thirty-eight years after the fact, Elizabeth Banks snagged the film up, expressing that she originally felt a deep sympathy for the bear’s original demise in 1985. “I felt like this movie could be that bear’s revenge story,” she told Variety.

Like the poor bear and that bundle of cocaine, “Cocaine Bear” is ripping up the box office and leaving chaos in its wake. Marvel’s highly-anticipated sequel to “Ant-Man and the Wasp” has suffered alongside the success of “Cocaine Bear.” Although the original bear is certainly dead, its legacy lives on in this film.