Behind the “coke rampage for punch – and blood”

The story of “Cocaine Bear” is nothing special.

Those who saw yesterday’s Redband trailer – about a black bear’s cocaine-fuelled rampage through the southern forest – were no doubt skeptical of the teaser caption, which claimed the flick was “inspired by real events.”

However, its far-fetched premise is actually based on a true story. And — while far less gruesome (sort of) — the true details behind the event can be just as shocking.

For the uninitiated, the highly anticipated black comedy, directed by Elizabeth Banks, follows a group of strangers who meet in the Georgia wilderness “where a 500-pound apex predator has ingested an amazing amount of cocaine and was using coke.” rages to blow more… and blood,” reads the film’s official press release.

The multimillion-dollar load of coke was airdropped by traffickers during a botched smuggling operation, after which the Hangry Beast decided to gobble it all up, of course. As a result, the Bruin was transformed into a coke-mad super bear, with the ghost of Al Pacino in “Scarface” and Yogi’s insatiable appetite. Meanwhile, cops, passersby and human traffickers – led by the late Ray Liotta in his last role – scour the Georgian woods for the missing stash, unaware that they are being attacked by a bloodthirsty Baloo.

That's the real story behind it "cocaine bear."
The real “cocaine bear” stuck his snout into a duffel bag containing several pounds of powder.

With a plot this outlandish, viewers would be forgiven for writing it off as fiction. But this story is loose — and we mean it very cool – inspired by a wild incident in 1985 where authorities searching for a lost shipment of cocaine stumbled upon ransacked bags of drugs near the Georgia-Tennessee border. The drugs had been dropped by a high-flying smuggler who died after his parachute failed to deploy.

All in all, the looted cache reportedly contained 88 pounds of nose candy, worth a cool $20 million, the AP reported. And nearby was the culprit: a 150-pound “Cokey” bear who had reportedly died after ingesting millions of dollars worth of cocaine.

“The bear got on before us, and he ripped open the duffel bag, got him some cocaine and OD’d (overdosed),” said Gary Garner of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. “There is nothing left but bones and a thick skin.”

Cocaine Bear hits theaters on February 24, 2023.
Cocaine Bear, which features an ensemble cast that includes Alden Ehrenreich (left) and O’Shea Jackson, Jr. (right), hits theaters on February 24, 2023.

Investigators said regular Pablo Escobear had been dead for about four weeks when they found it, so it’s anyone’s guess as to what happened this month. Most likely, the creature died shortly after consuming the drugs and did not embark on the drug-fueled killing spree depicted in the film.

In fact, a subsequent autopsy revealed that the animal had suffered cerebral hemorrhage, respiratory failure, heart failure, and other complications consistent with an overdose. This was a far cry from the superpowers shown in the Cocaine Bear trailer, where the coke-smeared animal smashes down doors and jumps after an ambulance à la Wear Jordan and even makes the worm in front of amazed students.

However, if the creators of “Cocaine Bear” went with the true story, the flick would have been over in the first few minutes.

Perhaps more interesting is the story of drug smuggling Andrew Thornton, 40, a Kentucky narcotics officer turned drug smuggler and gang leader. The rogue agent had reportedly picked up the drugs in Colombia and flown them to the United States in a Cessna with hundreds of pounds of coke in tow, Knox News reported.

The true story of the cocaine bear is less gruesome (or should we say "Grizzly) as the film: The black bear eats millions of dollars worth of discarded medicine and dies.
The coked bear, seen here chasing Keri Russell in the film adaptation, ate millions of dollars worth of discarded drugs and then dies.

While flying over Florida, Thornton reportedly overheard federal agents talking on the radio about tailing their plane. In a last-ditch effort to avoid being arrested, the trafficker decided to throw three duffel bags of cocaine — which would be ingested by this hapless bear — off the plane near Blairsville, GA. Thornton then parachuted out of the jet himself, with a remaining 77-pound baton strapped to his body, along with two pistols, night-vision goggles, a survival knife and about $4,500 in cash.

Unfortunately, his skydive went awry when the parachute malfunctioned (which some experts attribute to overload). The cocaine cowboy fell to his death at Island Home Pike in South Knoxville on the morning of September 11, 1985.

The alleged cocaine bear, meanwhile, has been preserved and is on display at the Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall in Lexington, which sells a variety of bear-related merchandise, from T-shirts to snow globes, aptly named — you guessed it — “blow globes.” “

Joining Liotta in Cocaine Bear are Keri Russell (The Americans), O’Shea Jackson, Jr. (Straight Outta Compton), Christian Convery-Jennings (Sweet Tooth), Alden Ehrenreich (Solo: A Star Wars Story”), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (“Modern Family”), Brooklynn Prince (“The Florida Project”), Isiah Whitlock, Jr. (“BlacKkKlansman”), Kristofer Hivju (“Game of Thrones”), Hannah Hoekstra ( Charlie’s Angels 2019) and Aaron Holliday (Sharp Objects), along with Emmy-winner Margo Martindale (The Americans).

It hits theaters on February 24, 2023. Behind the “coke rampage for punch – and blood”

Emma Bowman

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