The 'Cocaine Bear' Movie's A Go ... And Based On A Weird True Story

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
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Everyone knows that “Snakes on a Plane” wasn’t real, and that New Line Cinema took its best line, Samuel L. Jackson’s immortal “I want these m*therfucking snakes off this m*therfucking plane!” from an internet fan. But we know there were never any m*therfucking snakes on any m*therfucking planes.

Not so with “Cocaine Bear,” an Elizabeth Banks film set for 2022 with Phil Lord and Chris Miller (they did “The Lego Movie,” so this is sort of a turn for them. Of some kind). Because there really was a Cocaine Bear.

Cocaine Bear consumed around seventy pounds of sweet white powder, give or take, from a drug drop gone wrong somewhere in Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in Georgia, says The Guardian (who would like to rain on our parade and yes it’s very sad that a bear was harmed but stay with me people). Which means that after it snarfed 15 million dollars worth of coke, it died of pretty much everything at once.

But in the moments until its death, Cocaine Bear was possibly the most powerful being on planet Earth. It had the strength of a bear with the strength of all bears. It became a member of Mötley Crüe. It traveled across time, space, and species to become one with Berlin-era David Bowie.

And now, Cocaine Bear will star in a “character-driven thriller inspired by true events that took place in Kentucky in 1985,” says Variety. We can only imagine (hope, pray) it draws out the “bear with the strength of all bears becoming one with Berlin-era Bowie” part of Cocaine Bear’s existence.

But wait: Kentucky? The drug drop took place in Georgia.

Buckle up, Buttercup, because this is about to get weird.

Cocaine Bear Begins With An Entitled White Dude

Zdeněk Macháček/Unsplash

Cocaine Bear’s story begins with a presumable villain, who, like all good villains, will be an entitled white dude. On September 9, 1985, Andrew Thornton II, who the Knoxville News Sentinel calls “a former Kentucky narcotics officer and lawyer turned big-time drug smuggler” was doing what drug smugglers do best (or in this case, worst) with Bill Leonard, “his karate instructor turned bodyguard.”

They flew to Colombia. They picked up cocaine. They were flying back to the United States, where the plan, such as it was, seemed to go something like this: standard drug smuggling. Except the feds were on their tail. The bags of coke had parachutes in them, and they began kicking them out of the plane for retrieval later.

Finally, after putting their plane on autopilot, both men jumped, attached to cocaine. Leonard’s parachute opened. Thornton’s didn’t. They found him dead in a yard in South Knoxville with cash, night vision goggles, pistols, and 35 kilos of Colombian coke strapped to his ass. He also, according to Slate, carried a membership card to the Miami Jockey Club and IDs in multiple names.

So Where’s Cocaine Bear Again?

Okay, evil white men drug smuggling is… evil white men drug smuggling. Cocaine bear snorted up some of that coke after one of their drug drops over the Georgia forest. Died. Very sad.

Then he lived on.

The Knoxville Sentinel News traces Cocaine Bear’s bizarre postmortem journey, because some magnificent bastard had enough presence of mind to have him taxidermied. First, Cocaine Bear was put on display at the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in Georgia. According to The Independent, they put him in storage during a wildfire. Then, the Knoxville News Sentinel tells us, he was stolen, because who doesn’t need Cocaine Bear as a centerpiece for their living room? You could string him up in Christmas lights and put him in a Santa hat!

Finally Cocaine Bear washed up in a Nashville pawn shop, where it was purchased by Waylon Jennings, says The Independent. He likely did not deploy Christmas lights and a Santa hat, but he does have a collection of preserved animals in Las Vegas, says The Knoxville Sentinel News. Eventually Waylon gifted it to a friend, who croaked, whose estate was auctioned off, and Cocaine Bear went to live in a Chinese Medicine shop.

In the end, apparel company Kentucky for Kentucky — whose mission, according to their website, is “to engage and inform the world by promoting Kentucky people, places, and products” — bought Cocaine Bear and stuck him on display at Kentucky Fun Mall in Lexington. You can visit him and buy any assortment of Cocaine Bear related merchandise.

Give Us The Movie Deets

We don’t have any.

They’re being super cagey, and what we’ve said is what we’ve got. The movie could be about American drug smugglers with a side of Cocaine Bear. It could be about hikers battling its main star, Cocaine Bear (please God be about hikers battling Cocaine Bear). This could be so bad it’s good, like “Hot Tub Time Machine,” or so bad it’s bad, like “Snakes on a Plane.” We don’t know if we should expect “Sharknado” or “Cats.”

But two words: Cocaine. Bear.

You’d give up a good two hours of your life, if it were streaming and you didn’t feel like banging your spouse, to watch a movie called “Cocaine Bear.”

And that’s what producers are banking on.

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