Cocaine Bear Is Based On A True Story, And Meet And Greets With The Taxidermied Bear Will Be Held At A Screening

Cocaine Bear poster
(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

If you have been lucky enough to see the insane NSFW trailer for Cocaine Bear, then you know that the comedy-thriller promises a hilarious and bizarre good time at the cinema. What might be the strangest aspect of the movie focusing on a 500-pound murderous bear high on blow is that there really is a true story that inspired it. That was until a Kentucky theater announced it would be holding movie screenings where you could have a meet and greet with the taxidermied remains of the creature behind the real-life story which inspired the film. We aren’t kidding.

The Kentucky Theater will host screenings on Friday, February 24, and Saturday, 25, where cinema-goers can take photos with the now stuffed bear according to ABC 36 (WTVQ),. The animal will be displayed in the theater’s lobby for two days during the first weekend of the movie’s release. 

Anyone familiar with the term “inspired by a true story” knows that frequently filmmakers and studios use that term quite loosely. So, considering people can now go see the real bear before seeing the movie, how much of the absurdity in Elizabeth Banks’ Cocaine Bear is true? Let’s take a look at the truth behind the fiction. 

Was There A Bear That Ingested A Ton of Cocaine?

As we pointed out previously, the movie is appropriately titled because, as the New York Times points out in their story, there was, in fact, a real bear that died of an overdose after ingesting a large quantity of cocaine. However, the real-life bear, while still scary if one were to walk up on it in the woods, was far less imposing than the 500-pound beast depicted in the upcoming film. In reality, the bear was reported as a 175 lb. black bear. 

Did The Bear Go On A Murderous Rampage?

The actual incident involving the wasted forest critter is a lot less bloody than what is shown in the movie. The massacre on display in the film's trailer is where Hollywood deviates from the truth. The bear was found dead from an overdose in the mountains of Fannin County, Georgia. The animal overdosed soon after discovering drugs that had been dropped from a plane by former police officer and convicted drug smuggler Andrew Thornton. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation found the bear next to 40 opened plastic containers with traces of cocaine. A Kentucky mall claims to be the proud owner of the taxidermied bear and has even used it as its mascot. 

Is The Bear The Only One That Died?

Sad, right? While the bear’s death is tragic, there was another death but not at the bear’s paws. Andrew Thornton – the pilot responsible for dropping the drugs for the bear to find – perished on September 11, 1985. He got caught in his parachute while attempting to jump from his autopilot Cessna aircraft and died. The Bureau reported Thornton had an overweight load which was ultimately the cause of his demise. 

Is A Bear Getting High On Cocaine The Only Ture Thing In The Movie?

Yes, the bear overdosing did happen, but also the involvement of Andrew Thornton will be shown in the film. The Welsh actor Matthew Rhys plays Thornton in the upcoming flick. How much the character will factor or what his ultimate outcome in the story will be, is yet to be seen, but he is based on a real-life person.

Cocaine Bear is only loosely based on real-life events. In truth, the film’s director Elizabeth Banks says she took far more inspiration from movies such as Stand By Me and from beloved directors like Sam Raimi, John Carpenter, and Steven Spielberg while directing her movie. No matter how you might feel about the real bear’s tragic death being used as inspiration for a bonkers film, it's hard to deny that movie looks like a ton of fun with plenty of F-bombs and dark humor.

Cocaine Bear claws its way into cinemas on February 24, and if you're close enough to the Kentucky Theater, you can swing by and take a picture with the bear that inspired the film's wild plot. While CinemaBlend readers wait for their chance to catch the inebriated bear in cinemas, they might be interested in checking out our 2023 movie schedule to plan their next movie theater experience. 

Ryan LaBee

Ryan graduated from Missouri State University with a BA in English/Creative Writing. An expert in all things horror, Ryan enjoys covering a wide variety of topics. He's also a lifelong comic book fan and an avid watcher of Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon.