Turns Out, That’s An Actor Actually Playing Cocaine Bear

The bear from Cocaine Bear
(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Killer animals have existed in film since almost the inception of cinema; look no further than 1925’s The Lost World. However, no two films brought natural horror movies to the forefront like Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) and Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975). While the two iconic creature features hold a place in cinematic history, a lot has changed in the world of visual effects since the days of shoddy rear projections and mechanical sharks that barely work. Nowadays, a lot goes into bringing rampaging critters to the screen believably; case in point, Elizabeth Banks’s mostly well-reviewed comedy-horror movie Cocaine Bear is a marvel of a visual effects achievement. However, the titular cocaine bear surprisingly wasn’t all computer animation. It turns out there was actually an actor playing the inebriated homicidal beast. 

It seems that Allan Henry is the motion capture performer who was responsible for playing the drug addict bear on set, according to Variety. Henry was present to give actors such as Keri Russell, Ray Liotta, and Alden Ehrenreich something real and tangible to interact with and play off of during their scenes. Henry is a vet of the mo-cap technique; he performed as animals in the Planet of the Apes trilogy. However, the actor says performing in Cocaine Bear was different than the Ape’s movies for one key reason. He told the outlet:

On films like the ‘Apes’ trilogy or ‘Godzilla vs. Kong,’ there’s something more human about those characters because of their enhanced intelligence and their greater experience, whereas Cokey is just a bear. Well, I shouldn’t say just a bear. Cokey is a bear. The challenge was trying to move as close as I could to how a bear would move, the pace that a bear would take, the way that a bear would breathe and explore the environment around them.

Such a role sounds fun, in theory, but it's also incredibly tedious -- and requires a lot of prep. Allan Henry says to get ready for his performance as Cokey, he turned to some other famous bears of Hollywood for inspiration. However, those famed resources weren't the most important ones that Henry sought out while getting a grasp on his performance as the titular beast. In his own words:

I looked at bears that have been in media, like the bear from ‘The Revenant, I worked on ‘The Jungle Book’ — at Weta, we did some stuff, so I looked at what we had done with Baloo for those sequences. But a lot of it was nature documentaries and CCTV footage and camera footage of people who were like, ‘There’s a bear in my backyard tearing up my car.'

Actor Alden Ehrenreich posted some fantastic behind-the-scenes photos to his Instagram, which show what the mo-cap actor looked like on set while playing the cocaine bear. You can check out the post for yourself below:

Cokey, brought brilliantly to life by Allan Henry and Elizabeth Bank’s visual effects team, looks to be in line to join the great killer animals of the echelon of natural horror cinema. As a film buff, I'm in awe of how they were able to pull off the monster -- and that the movie itself is proving to be a hit. While the film’s director thought Cocaine Bear could be a career-ender for her, the movie has, in fact, over-performed, bringing in $23 million during its debut weekend. The horror-comedy’s box office success proves that Banks was the right filmmaker for the director’s chair and Henry was the right actor for the grizzly moc-ap suit. 

Cocaine Bear continues to roar on in cinemas with keen movie watchers able to now watch Cocaine Bear online on Peacock. Make sure to check your local listings for showtimes so you can catch actor Allan Henry’s glorious work. Fans of the murderous black bear flick might be interested in CinemaBlend's list of upcoming horror movies or our 2023 new movie releases schedule to plan their next trip to the movies.

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.