Syfy Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View
SYFY WIRE Cocaine Bear

Here’s how ‘Cocaine Bear’ pulled off that great cameo

Cocaine Bear begins with a drug dealer throwing bags of coke out of his plane, and he's played by a very recognizable actor.

By James Grebey
Cocaine Bear (2023)

Cocaine Bear, the new horror comedy now in theaters, is inspired by true events but the movie takes some pretty drastic creative license. Almost all of what happens in the movie is totally made up, and there are only two characters who existed in real-life: the titular Cocaine Bear and Andrew C. Thornton II, the drug smuggler who ditched the coke in the woods as his plane was crashing, and then died when his parachute didn’t deploy.

The film begins with Thornton throwing duffel bag after duffel bag of coke out of his plane, and he’s played by an actor who makes a very fitting and very entertaining cameo appearance. 

**SPOILER WARNING! This story spoils the Cocaine Bear cameo, though it happens in the first minute of the film, so is it really a spoiler? In any case, be warned.**

Cocaine Bear opens with Thornton, clearly high on his own supply, dancing like a maniac while he chucks coke out of his crashing plane. He’s got a parachute on, but when it’s time to jump out himself, he knocks his head on the door to the plane and falls, unconscious, to his death. It is an incredible little performance from Matthew Rhys, star of The Americans and Perry Mason — and the real-life husband of Keri Russell, who has a leading role in the film. 

RELATED: The R-rating was never in question, but Cocaine Bear producer Chris Miller says the title was

That Russel and Rhys, who starred in The Americans together, are married, was part of why Rhys appeared in Cocaine Bear. But, as producer Chris Miller tells SYFY WIRE, there’s another reason, too. 

“One thing that people don’t really know about Matthew is that he’s one of the funniest people you’ll ever meet,” Miller said. “We were talking about who should play Andrew Thornton, and we had already cast Keri. We had dinner with him and Keri and they’re both super fun and funny, but we left that dinner thinking, ‘How come nobody knows this side of him?' He plays dramatic roles incredibly well and interestingly, and his American accent is spot-on. I had no idea that he wasn’t actually American for years. It seemed like a really fun opportunity to get him to show off some of the range that he has, even in a very, very brief role.”

Miller added that it was director Elizabeth Banks’ idea to get Rhys to join the film, as she knows both him and Russell pretty well. 

“They were down for it and they were delighted,” Miller said. 

One imagines that it was probably fun for Rhys to step back into the ‘80s — a decade he knows very well from having played a deep undercover Cold War era Soviet spy for six seasons on The Americans. Philip Jennings probably would have done a much better job smuggling those drugs and getting out of that plane safely, though. 

Cocaine Bear is now playing in theaters everywhere. Click here to purchase tickets.