The true story of the infamous bear who consumed a bag of cocaine and got the Hollywood treatment

The true story of the infamous bear who consumed a bag of cocaine to seek treatment from Hollywood (Getty/iStock)

When Georgia investigators came across the infamous Cocaine Bear in 1985, his cause of death was unequivocal.

The 175-pound black bear was found next to a duffel bag that was once filled with more than 70 pounds of cocaine before being dropped from a drug smuggler’s plane.

Only now it’s been opened with 40 empty packets scattered near the overdosed animal’s carcass.

Now the crazy tale of the cocaine bear has been given the Hollywood thriller treatment and turned into a movie directed by actress and director Elizabeth Banks and it has just seen its first trailer.

The film stars Keri Russell of The Americans, as well as an ensemble cast that includes her husband Matthew Rhys, Margo Martindale, O’Shea Jackson Jr, Alden Ehrenreich and Jesse Tyler Ferguson.

And it also features one of the last film performances ever Good guys actor Ray Liotta, who died during the filming of the film Dangerous waters in the Dominican Republic in May.

Cocaine bear makes its way into theaters on Feb. 24, 2023.

Images from 'Cocaine Bear' movie (Universal Pictures)

Stills from the movie ‘Cocaine Bear’ (Universal Pictures)

Predator-eaten cocaine, worth an estimated $15 million, was dropped from a plane in 1985 by drug dealer Andrew Thornton, the son of wealthy Kentucky horse ranchers.

Thornton, a former lawyer and drug enforcement officer, had been smuggling cocaine in a Cessna from Colombia and was delivering packages in northern Georgia.

Images from 'Cocaine Bear' movie (Universal Pictures)

Stills from the movie ‘Cocaine Bear’ (Universal Pictures)

According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, Thornton died when he jumped out of the plane and “hit his head on the tail of the plane” and failed to open his parachute.

When her body was found in a neighborhood driveway in Knoxville, Tennessee, Thornton was wearing night-vision goggles, a bulletproof vest, and Gucci loafers.

Images from 'Cocaine Bear' movie (Universal Pictures)

Stills from the movie ‘Cocaine Bear’ (Universal Pictures)

Thornton, 40, also carried $4,500 in cash, two handguns, several knives and an airplane key.

The unoccupied plane he was flying in was later found crashed several hours away in the North Carolina mountains and when authorities retraced the plane’s flight path and discovered nine bags filled with cocaine.

Three months after Thornton’s death, the dead bear and tenth duffel bag were found south of the Tennessee-Georgia state line in the Chattahoochee National Forest.

But that was far from the end of the bear’s amazing story.

Now stuffed, the bear, which was named Pablo Eskobear after Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, is an unlikely tourist attraction at the “Kentucky For Kentucky” merchant shop in Lexington, Kentucky.

They got their hands on it after an exhaustive search across the country and detailed its bizarre history on their website.

“His stomach was literally chock full of cocaine. There is not a mammal on the planet that can survive this,” the coroner who performed the bear’s autopsy told the company’s founders.

“Brain haemorrhage, respiratory failure, hyperthermia, renal failure, heart failure, stroke. You name it, that bear had it.

The bear was eventually taxidermied by officials and donated to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, where it was displayed in a visitor center.

It then went into storage during a fire, before ending up in a Nashville pawn shop. From there it was bought by country music star Waylon Jennings, who gave it to a friend in Las Vegas.

When the friend, Ron Thompson, died in 2009, his property was auctioned off and Cocaine Bear was purchased by Chinese immigrant Zhu T’ang for $200.

When Mr. T’ang died in 2012, the owners of Kentucky For Kentucky contacted his widow and she agreed to give them Cocaine Bear, if they would pay for shipping.

The bear is now a social media star in his own right at the company’s headquarters at the Kentucky Fun Mall in Lexington.

The film Cocaine Bear is based on an untitled screenplay written by Jimmy Warden and was produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who directed The Lego Movie.

Cocaine Bear will be Banks’ third feature after his last direction Charlie’s Angels in 2019 and Perfect intonation 3 in 2015.

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