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SYFY WIRE Cocaine Bear

'Cocaine Bear' director lays out movie's two morals: Drugs are bad, wild animals aren't evil

Cocaine Bear is actually a PSA disguised as a horror-comedy.

By Josh Weiss
Cocaine Bear (2023)

Believe it or not, Cocaine Bear is actually an anti-drug PSA secretly disguised as a horror-comedy. Makes a lot of sense when you remember that the story takes place in 1985, the height of America's "War on Drugs" and famous "Just Say No" campaign

Appearing on the most recent episode of the Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend podcast, the film's director, Elizabeth Banks, made it clear that her intention with the project was not to glorify the use of illicit substances in any way, shape, or form. "I think the movie is not pro-drug, by the way," she said. "The movie is very much, 'Drugs is bad!' We're keeping it clean for the kids in that regard."

One of the big takeaways from Jimmy Warden's screenplay, the filmmaker continued, was that the titular apex predator was simply "collateral damage" of humans being arrogant enough to drop a large quantities of cocaine directly into the animal's natural habitat. In real life, the animal immediately overdosed on the powdery narcotic, experiencing catastrophic organ failure.

RELATED: 'Cocaine Bear' kills it at the box office, beating box office projections with $23 million opening weekend

"I remember feeling deep sympathy for this bear," she explained. "And so, when I read this script, I thought, 'Well, this is the revenge story for the bear.' The bear didn't want any of that! The bear was like, 'I put these drugs right in front of me. I tasted them, they made me excited, I needed more. So now in the movie, we just imagine, 'Well, what if that bear ran into a bunch of people?'"

And while the cinematic version of the bear does go on a bloody rampage, Banks stressed that it is very much a work of fiction and not meant to create a Jaws-type situation where audiences begin to develop an irrational fear against the American black bear.

"I don't want to create Jaws here," she said. "You can see a black bear and not totally lose your mind. I mean, don't go close to a wild animal. Do I really have to say that out loud on the podcast?"

In addition to directing, Banks also produced the feature alongside Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Max Handelman, Brian Duffield, and Aditya Sood. Robin Mulcahy Fisichella, Alison Small, and Nikki Baida served as executive producers.

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

Looking for more creature-based thrills? Jordan Peele's Nope is currently streaming on Peacock.