Elizabeth Banks Recalls Being Told Women Don’t Direct Action And How Ray Liotta Instead Made Her Feel She ‘Could Do Anything’

Elizabeth Banks at Cocaine Bear event
(Image credit: NBCUniversal)

Elizabeth Banks has been an actor in Hollywood for over 20 years but, in recent years, she's also been getting into directing, between her 2015 feature debut Pitch Perfect 2, her reboot of Charlie’s Angels in 2019 and her latest film, the horror comedy Cocaine Bear. Banks recently spoke about making the movie and reflected on what she's been told about why women don’t typically handle big action movies. She also explained how the late Ray Liotta provided some encouragement.  

During Elizabeth Banks’ interview on the ReelBlend podcast, the actress/director shared that what she was told about women taking director positions was actually debunked by Ray Liotta, whom she worked with on 2023 new movie release. In her words: 

I’ve been told very early on that women don’t direct a lot of action because frankly, this particular producer thought that men don’t follow women. That it’s hard for women to lead men when it comes to these real muscular, action-y things. So the idea that Ray Liotta came to my set and was happily led by me, that I was able to direct like, Henry Hill, I feel like I could do anything. That blew that mythology totally open for me. So, I’m forever grateful for that, because it gave me a lot of confidence.

Elizabeth Banks wasn’t given the best feedback when she aimed to jump into the action genre, but she has clearly (and thankfully) ignored any reservations like the ones shared by the producer she mentioned. And when it comes to her time on Cocaine Bear, she felt that being followed and trusted by the star of Goodfellas was a vote of confidence. With that, it reinforced the notion that she could in fact direct what she wanted to and, by god, she did! Check out the full response during the podcast interview in the YouTube clip down below: 

Of course, it's also sweet to hear that during production, Elizabeth Banks was able to forge a solid working relationship with Ray Liotta. This movie marks one of the final roles he took on before he died at the age of 67 back in May 2022. The Cocaine Bear director shared that she’s forever “grateful” to the late acting icon for lending his talents to the horror comedy. And he was apparently “game” for the somewhat ridiculous premise and even wanted more jokes for himself once he read the script. 

Cocaine Bear

The bear in Cocaine Bear.

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Release Date: February 24, 2023 (Theaters) 
Directed By: Elizabeth Banks
Written By: Jimmy Warden
Starring: Keri Russell, Alden Ehrenreich, O'Shea Jackson Jr, Ray Liotta, Christian Convery, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and more. 

As Elizabeth Banks also shared, she worked with him prior to this production, on 2011’s The Details, during which she felt his professionalism and sensed his charm right off the bat. Their prior working relationship probably made it even easier for the two to gel on the set of this latest flick, which is different from their first collaboration.

Cocaine Bear is off to a great start commercially, as critics are high on the gory comedy. The movie also didn't blow on preview night at the box office, with the movie now making more than initially predicted. And so far, tracking has the movie landing on a nice haul for its opening weekend.   

It’s great to see not only such a unique concept catch moviegoers' eyes but for a talented filmmaker like Elizabeth Banks to be juggling action, comedy and horror in one of the year's most anticipated movies. Let's hope that she keeps proving the status quo wrong!  You can check out Cocaine Bear in theaters now!

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.