You might be surprised to learn that a movie about a coked-out bear killing everyone it encounters in the backwoods of Georgia has deeper meaning.
“If you try to get just a little deeper with it, It does try to say some things about the War on Drugs,” screenplay writer Jimmy Warden told Military Times. “Who are the true victims in this? Is it the people who are doing drugs? Or it people who are trying to stop the sale of drugs?”
While it looks like the bear is the villain on the story’s surface, there are actually a few bigger bads in this film than a cocaine-consuming carnivore on a rampage.
The setting, rural Georgia in 1985, comprised the ideal place and time for a dark comedy, Warden notes.
He first discovered the true story while visiting Lexington, Kentucky — home to a marketplace that has a stuffed Blackbear on display, affectionately dubbed “Pablo Escobear.”
The true story of the cocaine bear dates back to 1985, when a 150-pound black bear’s body was found by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, according to the Associated Press.
Its cause of death? Cocaine dropped in a duffel bag by former Army paratrooper Andrew Thornton, who, as his Cessna 404 was going down, released the powdery load over the Chattahoochee National Forest. Thornton died when his parachute never fully opened. The bear got into the duffel containing a reported 75 pounds of cocaine, overdosed, and died. (Unlike in the movie, the bear was the only casualty during its coke-fueled bender.)
“I couldn’t stop reading about every angle to it,” Warden said. “I couldn’t get over the idea that I wanted a movie to be about the bear and less about Andrew Thornton. I knew that I needed to take a departure and make the story about the cocaine bear and not the true crime, bluegrass conspiracy, or anything like that.”
That’s also the reason Warden decided to make the story into a dark comedy instead of a horror film. The true tale was simply so absurd that in order to build off it, the script needed to be even wilder.
“I think that if the movie took itself too seriously, then people would shrug it off,” Warden noted. “I wanted it to be super gory in the way that the gore is so over the top that you have to laugh at a certain point and it stops being scary.”
Warden isn’t done with the “Cocaine Bear” story either.
“I definitely have some ideas ruminating for for a sequel, or multiple,” he said.
“Cocaine Bear” premieres in theaters on Feb. 24.
Observation Post is the Military Times one-stop shop for all things off-duty. Stories may reflect author observations.
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.