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SYFY WIRE Cocaine Bear

Elizabeth Banks wins PETA award for not using or harming any actual bears while making 'Cocaine Bear'

The new killer bear film was commended for its lack of real bears. 

By Matthew Jackson
Cocaine Bear (2023)

As of this writing, Cocaine Bear -- the much-anticipated new horror-comedy from director Elizabeth Banks -- hasn't yet hit theaters. But even before its opening weekend introduces the world to the title character and the many, many humans it terrorizes, the film is earning acclaim. Critics have hailed it as perhaps the best movie of the year so far, and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have already commended Cocaine Bear for...its lack of real bears.

RELATED: Cocaine Bear writer compares drug-fueled predator to King Kong: 'He's not the bad guy'

In a press release Thursday, PETA announced that it has awarded Banks a "Beary Best Award" for Cocaine Bear, due to the film's use of human performers and CGI to create the title character instead of trained live bears with handlers. 

Cocaine Bear’s hyper-realistic star proves that the future of film lies in technology, not dragging abused animals onto movie sets,” PETA Senior Vice President Lisa Lange said in a statement. “PETA is happy to celebrate Elizabeth Banks for recognizing that forcing a real bear to perform in her dark comedy would have been anything but funny.”

At first blush it might sound strange that a movie starring a bear, with the word "Bear" right there in the title, would refrain from using any actual bears to tell its story, but this isn't a film about the wonders of nature. This is a wild, inspired-by-a-true-story ride about a bear that eats a colossal amount of cocaine and then starts rampaging through the woods in George. That means the "bear" in Cocaine Bear has to do everything from leap toward a speeding ambulance to climb a tree and drag a screaming victim down. Not exactly stuff you could (or should) convince a real bear to attempt. So, Banks and company went the synthetic route, and that allowed them to get as crazy with the action as they wanted. 

While it's no doubt a crazy concept turned into a crazy movie, Banks also stressed the importance of making the bear feel real, even if it wasn't.

"It had to feel like a NatGeo documentary about a bear that did cocaine,” she told Variety earlier this month. “It couldn’t be something silly. It couldn’t seem animated in any way.”

Now, as Cocaine Bear heads into theaters with seals of approval coming from all directions, we get to see just how that approach turned out. The film arrives tomorrow.