Elizabeth Banks Says Cocaine Bear Pays Wild Homage To Sam Raimi, John Carpenter And Steven Spielberg, And I Am All In

Keri Russell in Cocaine Bear
(Image credit: Universal Pictures )

Cocaine Bear is a 2023 movie release on its way to our hearts, given the movie’s inspirations. Director Elizabeth Banks, who is of course famous for her acting work, found her third movie to be behind the camera with Cocaine Bear. It’s her first horror movie and wow, did she look to the greats to tell the story of a bear who consumes 70 pounds of coke and goes insane any human nearby. 

When CinemaBlend attended a Los Angeles event for Cocaine Bear earlier this week, Elizabeth Banks shared some insight into what to expect from the upcoming horror movie, aside from that wild NSFW Cocaine Bear trailer that just dropped online. In her words: 

The movie, despite what you just saw, really has a lot of humor and heart in it as well. And, there's some hugging, there's some tears. It really is a story about fathers and sons and parenting and taking care of each other in crazy times, right? That's one of the sort of thematics of this too, is just when things are going totally sideways, who can you count on? That's a big part of the movie as well. That to me, the heart of the movie, the reason I made it was not necessarily because of the crazy bear. I do love these movies. I love horror and I love gore, and I love comedy and I love Sam Raimi and I love John Carpenter, and I felt like this was an opportunity to, this takes place in 1985. So this is a real opportunity to create a homage to some of those kinds of films, but also to do something really unique too, because it is also a character piece.

Banks has first-hand experience working with Sam Raimi on the Spider-Man movies as Betty Brant, even though she did screen test for MJ Watson. Though, she’s definitely thinking about his famed work in horror on things like the Evil Dead movies. The actor/director spoke about playing homage to Raimi along with filmmakers like Halloween’s John Carpenter and another all-time great. As she continued: 

For me, two Steven Spielberg movies that I really looked at when we talked about making this movie with the studio early on were Jaws of course and Jurassic Park because that's the other thing about bears, it's different from sharks. When you see a bear in the wild, sort of across the field or whatever, you don't immediately want to run away. You think of a little cuddly or cute [bear]. And I thought Jurassic Park did such an amazing job taking that sense of wonder and awe that you haven't seen something and then turning it into order when you realize it could be you. And that was the feeling that I wanted to get out of the audience. It would be cool to see a bear in nature. That would be fun. And, then also it could turn terrifying. Like if you weren't paying attention or if the bear did cocaine.

It’s true. No part of me wants to see a shark when I go to the beach, but if I saw a bear on a trip to a national forest, part of me really wants to pet it. Elizabeth Banks implemented this element of Cocaine Bear thanks to looking at two of the most iconic movies of all time: Jaws and Jurassic Park. All that, and she told us that she and the cast all watched 1986 coming-of-age classic, Stand By Me before they began rolling cameras on the horror comedy. Despite Cocaine Bear looking like a really funny and vulgar horror movie, it sounds like it has a lot of dimensions to it. 

Additionally, during the event, Elizabeth Banks showed us a full scene from Cocaine Bear, which she likened to Fast and Furious because of the car chase elements. It’s produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who have teased that it's “insane” too. Given the mood board of inspirations that make up this movie, including it being also inspired by an actual bear who ingested cocaine in the ‘80s after a drug drop gone wrong, I’m certainly all in on Elizabeth Banks next directorial effort. 

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.