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SYFY WIRE Features

How Matthew Rhys Ended Up in That Hilarious, Shocking Cocaine Bear Cameo

The story behind the most surprising cameo of Cocaine Bear!

By Tara Bennett
Cocaine Bear Trailer

Director Elizabeth Banks stuffed Cocaine Bear with a whole roster of amazing actors and comedians that helped make the horror/comedy one of 2023's first box office hits. But to this day, there are still plenty of viewers who don't know that the movie opens with a cameo featuring an Emmy award-winning actor. Yes, Andrew C. Thornton II, the maniac in the fuselage of the plane throwing all the cocaine bricks down to Earth, is played by Matthew Rhys.

The same actor who played KGB spy Philip Jennings on The Americans, Lloyd Vogel in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and legendary journalist Daniel Ellsberg in The Post is the one snorting coke and dancing to his death in the prologue of Cocaine Bear.

How did that happen?

RELATED: Peacock announces 'Cocaine Bear: The True Story' documentary to premiere alongside hit movie

Rhys admits to SYFY WIRE that he requested the part. To set context, the opportunity actually came from Rhys being the long-term partner of actress Keri Russell, who plays Sari in Cocaine Bear. As the film was shot in Ireland, Rhys traveled with his family to watch their younger kids while Russell worked. 

"I was taking the kids to aquariums and zoos in beautiful Dublin, which I love," Rhys shares of his initial days in Ireland.

Having read the script and with the production in gear, Rhys said that one day he just asked Russell about that audacious opening sequence. "I said, 'Have you shot that opening sequence yet?' She said, 'I don't think so ...,' because she wasn't in [the scene]. So, I said, 'Ask Banks who is playing that part?' And she said, 'Oh, they haven't got it [cast] yet. They're still looking for a local hire.' And I went, 'I'm local.'"

Rhys says he then just asked Banks if he could play Thornton II. "I asked her if I could do it, simply, because I knew Keri wouldn't be shooting that day and I could get a day away," Rhys jokes.

In the prologue, Rhys rocks out to Jefferson Starship's "Jane," but we wondered if that was actually the song played during the scene? As it turns out, yes ... but there were others.

Rhys explains, "They were really struggling at the time to clear that song that they'd be allowed to use." The actor says Banks wasn't sure if music clearances would be able to secure "Jane" so she made a playlist of alternate options for the shoot day. "We actually shot the ass out of that sequence because we did it with so many different songs that she had on that list," he reveals. "She went, 'I really want you dancing to the song that we might use so I have like 18 songs.' And I was like, 'Are we going to do 18 takes?' And she's like, 'Yeah. Pretty much everything.' Guess who made his steps count that day?"

Watch Rhys shake his booty in Cocaine Bear on Peacock now!