Speaking to ScreenRant, “Cocaine Bear” director Elizabeth Banks noted that part of her motivation in making the high-octane comedy thriller was to posthumously redeem the real-life bear, having found the story a tragedy. “I read the script and I went down the Internet rabbit hole into the real story,” Banks said. “And I found out that, in the real story, the bear consumed this cocaine, OD’d, and died. And I thought, I was so sad about that.”
Said Banks, “It really depressed me that that bear became collateral damage in this insane war on drugs.” The so-called “war on drugs,” spearheaded by President Richard Nixon, had expanded significantly by 1985 under Ronald Reagan’s administration. By 1984, the FBI’s drug enforcement budget had ballooned and severe prosecutorial standards for cocaine had been imposed while arrests had substantially increased. This was almost certainly known to Thornton, a former narcotics cop, as he dumped the drugs that would cause heart failure in a small black bear.
“I just felt like this movie was the redemption story for that bear,” Banks said. Those who wish to pay their respects to the real cocaine bear can find a taxidermized hide purporting to be the real deal at the Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall in Lexington. Alternatively, they can see “Cocaine Bear,” which is now rampaging into theaters.