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SYFY WIRE Cocaine Bear

Elizabeth Banks wanted 'Cocaine Bear' to feel like a 'NatGeo documentary about a bear that did cocaine'

The only thing missing is voiceover narration from Sir David Attenborough.

By Josh Weiss

Elizabeth Banks got her hands on Jimmy Warden's absolutely wild script for Cocaine Bear (out in theaters later this month) in the early days of pandemic lockdown, and immediately knew she had to be the one to direct the stranger-than-fiction story about an apex predator on a drug-fueled rampage in the mountains of Georgia, circa 1985.

"The movie flashed before my eyes," Banks recalled during an interview with Variety, later adding that she wanted to aim for a grounded approach that would offset the inherent insanity of the core concept. "It had to feel like a NatGeo documentary about a bear that did cocaine,” she explained. “It couldn’t be something silly. It couldn’t seem animated in any way.”

RELATED: Elizabeth Banks knows 'Cocaine Bear' is a 'ginormous' gamble: 'This could be a career ender'

Producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who brought the project to Universal Pictures, knew there was no one better for the job after hearings Banks' visceral pitch for the R-rated feature. “It was pretty gory,” Miller said. “It had a lot of body parts and internal organs in it.”

“I don’t recommend anyone do this, but if you go down the internet hole of looking at actual animal attacks on humans, it’s f***ing gnarly as sh**,” added Banks, who also produced the thing. “I love gore. I grew up on Evil Dead. The gore is part of the fun of the ride.”

In any other movie, the violence would be used to elicit a sense of fear and dread out of the audience. In Cocaine Bear, the bloody visuals of people being torn limb from limb are meant to be a sort of catharsis ... for nature. “I really felt like this is so f***ed up that this bear got dragged into this drug run gone bad and ends up dead,” Banks said. “I felt like this movie could be that bear’s revenge story.”

The cast includes Keri Russell, O’Shea Jackson, Jr., Christian Convery, Alden Ehrenreich, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Brooklynn Prince, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Kristofer Hivju, Hannah Hoekstra, Aaron Holliday, Margo Martindale, and the late Ray Liotta.

Max Handelman, Brian Duffield and Aditya Sood serve as producers alongside Banks, Lord, and Miller. Robin Mulcahy Fisichella, Alison Small and Nikki Baida are executive producers.

Cocaine Bear pounces onto the big screen Friday, Feb. 24. Click here to purchase tickets.

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