Cocaine Bear Is Rated R For A Reason, Folks

You’ve probably guessed “not for kids” but we can give you some details.

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Some titles — for books, movies, and more — have the power to grab you right away, to make you want to know more. Something like The Godfather, for example, intrigues with simplicity. (Who is that? Why is he important?) Others set up curiosity, like If Beale Street Could Talk. (What would it say?!) More still are intentionally provocative and upfront: American Psycho, Fight Club, and, now Cocaine Bear, the upcoming black comedy about a coked-out black bear from director Elizabeth Banks. Provocactive. Upfront... but what age is Cocaine Bear appropriate for? I mean, you can probably have a pretty good guess based on the title, but here’s what else you need to know...

Cocaine Bear: not appropriate for kids.

It’s about a bear on cocaine so... clue #1 right there. In theaters on Feb. 24, Cocaine Bear is rated R (aka no one under the age of 17 will be permitted in theaters without a parent or adult guardian) and given that the rating was received for “language,” “bloody violence and gore,” and “drug use” that stands to reason. Of course, considering “cocaine” is in the title, the drug use went without saying (the bear is not the only one who gets high, apparently). Furthermore, considering “bear” is in the title, violence and gore were a good bet. And language? If a bear is doing cocaine I can’t think of too many people for whom that wouldn’t prompt a few expletives.

Cocaine Bear is inspired by a true story... kind of.

Here’s what’s true about the story, which was reported by the Associated Press at the time. In 1985, a drug runner routinely dropped packages of cocaine out of a low-flying plane for associates to pick up on the ground. After one run goes awry, the supplies land over Chattahoochee National Forest. A month later, investigators still hadn’t found the estimated 88 pounds of cocaine — valued at more than $20 million — but they did find a torn duffle bag and a bear who had overdosed.

We’re sad for the bear, who an autopsy confirmed likely died shortly after ingesting the drugs. (Because, you know, it was 88 pounds of cocaine, more than half of the small bear’s body weight.) But it is a good basis of comparison for anyone who feels guilty for splurging on a pricey dinner. Like, yes, Jennifer, you got cocktails and the buratta and your entrée and dessert, but did you eat $20 million worth of cocaine? No. You’re fine. Treat yo’self.

Cocaine Bear imagines the events leading to and directly following the bear eating cocaine.

In real life, there’s no evidence that the bear in question did anything other than find cocaine, eat it, and die. That is a much less fun movie than the title Cocaine Bear would indicate, so the filmmakers took some liberties... a lot of liberties actually. The movie imagines a coke bender rampage of violence, and absurdity. The movie also beefs up the bear — from a wispy 150 pounds to a whopping 500 pounds. Running from a bear smaller than a Saint Bernard just doesn’t hit the same.

The story is “real,” but the titular bear is not.

Unlike the “real” cocaine bear, the bear we see on screen is a computer generated critter created by a team of visual effects experts from Weta FX, Variety reports. Performance capture artist Allan Henry, who trained under Andy Serkis, played the bear on set and was replaced by computer animation in post production.

Banks wanted the CGI bear to look photorealistic.WWD/Penske Media/Getty Images

“[The bear] was conceived from looking at tons of reference photos of black bears and figuring out the size and the shape and the markings,” Banks explained to Slashfilm. “It was a really amazing process, going through that.”

She also revealed that despite the film’s silly premise, she and her team wanted the bear to feel real, and did a lot of research on bear movements and behaviors. “The bear is as photorealistic, Nat Geo documentary as you can make the bear, from the beginning,” she explained. “But we also knew that once the bear had coke, that was our little magic sprinkle dust that we can put on the bear and 'oh we can get away with a couple of things!’”

The “real” Cocaine Bear has a name... and “lives” with Elizabeth Banks

Cocaine Bear goes by several names. My personal favorite is Pablo Eskobear, but in the movie and on set goes by Cokey. (Get it? Cokey the Bear. Like Smokey the Bear who teaches kids “only you can prevent forest fires”...?) Banks explained on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon that, for lighting purposes, a “Cokey” head was crafted and used on set.

Cokey on set.YouTube

“Now that head is in my house, in my office,” Banks says proudly, though she admits it caught a repair worker off-guard when he turned the light on.

We like to think the real Cokey would have wanted it that way.

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