Cocaine Bear Movie True Story Explained: What Really Happened

Warning: This post contains major spoilers for Cocaine BearFact is sometimes stranger than fiction, but Cocaine Bear takes a lot of liberties when it comes to the true story at its core. Directed by Elizabeth Banks from a screenplay by Jimmy Warden, Cocaine Bear is loosely inspired by true events that occurred in 1985. A black bear did indeed do cocaine, as the action comedy suggests, because a drug trafficker threw bags of it from a plane.

Cocaine Bear merges the stories of tourists, drug smugglers, forest park employees, locals, and the police. The one thing they all have in common, of course, is coming face-to-face with the black bear that got to the cocaine before anyone else. Banks’ raunchy, gory film goes all out, showcasing a feral bear willing to kill anyone who stands in her way of getting more cocaine. The Cocaine Bear is treated with some sympathy, as it’s not her fault the cocaine just happened to land in her part of Blood Mountain. Cocaine Bear gets few facts right, but stretches the truth to create a fictional, entertaining story surrounding the real-life events.

What Really Happened To The Cocaine Bear

In Banks’ version of Cocaine Bear, the animal took several packages of cocaine and went on a killing spree. No matter how high the black bear got, she kept going, only collapsing once. Despite being shot, the Cocaine Bear persisted, and even lived to the end, preparing to terrorize a few more park visitors by the end of the film. In reality, the Cocaine Bear’s fate wasn’t a happy one. After ingesting some of the cocaine — three to four grams was found in the bear’s system — Cocaine Bear died of an overdose after 20 minutes.

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The bear, which was a male and not female, as is the case in Cocaine Bear, was found next to a duffel bag with 75 pounds of cocaine in it. Of course, the bear didn’t actually intake the 75 pounds of cocaine. After the cocaine bear’s body was found, a medical examiner declared that the bear’s stomach was lined with cocaine, and that the animal had suffered respiratory failure, cerebral hemorrhaging, and heart failure, among other things. The cocaine bear was ultimately sent to be stuffed. To be sure, the bear’s life following the ingestion of cocaine took a far more wild turn in Cocaine Bear than it did in reality.

Cocaine Bear Didn’t Actually Kill Anybody In Real Lifecocaine bear real life

While the black bear’s body was found weeks after the cocaine dropped from the sky, there is no evidence that he killed anyone in real life. Considering that the cocaine bear, nicknamed Pablo EskoBear after Pablo Escobar, overdosed not long after taking the cocaine, it seems doubtful he had time to go on a rampage through the forest in search of more cocaine, or to kill anyone who got in the way. Cocaine Bear not only gives the eponymous creature a different ending, but it gets creative regarding the aftermath of the bear taking cocaine and what he did after. The film, however, sees the bear get in quite a few kills, never letting up.

What Happened To The Rest Of The Duffel Bags?

cocaine bear syd eddie

The end of Cocaine Bear suggests the police never found the remaining cocaine. While hundreds of pounds of cocaine were eventually found, the cocaine the bear didn’t eat went missing at some point prior to his dead body being discovered by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Game rangers found 210 pounds of cocaine, while others found 220 pounds, all of which had been discovered in various locations. Suffice it to say it was a lot of cocaine, with each duffel bag worth millions of dollars.

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Cocaine Bear’s Main Characters Weren’t Involved In Real Life

cocaine bear cast-1

As far as reports go, none of the main characters in Cocaine Bear were a part of the real life occurrence. The only character who is based on a real-life person is Andrew C. Thornton, the drug-smuggling parachuter at the start of the action comedy. It’s his actions that led to the Cocaine Bear getting high. But the movie is less interested in Thornton’s actions than it is a group of fictional characters who end up in the bear’s way — intentionally or not. To that end, Cocaine Bear extends its creative liberties to the cast, each of whom have their own intentions, and who end up abandoning them in certain instances to survive.

Who Was Andrew C. Thornton (& How Did He Really Die)?

cocaine bear andrew

As aforementioned, Andrew C. Thornton II was the parachuter who threw out the bags of cocaine from a plane he was piloting. In real life, Thornton was a former police officer and an agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration who became a drug smuggler. At the time of his death, Thornton was allegedly smuggling cocaine into Tennessee from Colombia, but Thornton unloaded some of the cocaine from the plane because it was too heavy. Reportedly, the plan was for the cocaine to be picked up where Thornton dropped it at a later point.

Whether Thornton’s plan was approved of by the unknown cocaine distributors he was supposed to deliver it to or if he went off-course with his own scheme was unclear. Either way, the plan was thwarted by Thornton’s death. In Cocaine Bear, the drug smuggler hits his head on the plane door before he’s supposed to jump out of the plane, before he’s swept out the door and to the ground. According to reports, however, Thornton jumped out of the plane and his parachute never opened, having gotten twisted with the duffel bags of cocaine he was carrying.

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What Cocaine Bear Gets Wrong About The Drug’s Effect On The Animal

cocaine bear effects

To be fair to Cocaine Bear, there isn’t a lot of information on what cocaine might do to an actual bear because they’ve rarely, if ever, been put in such a situation. But according to Dr. Romain Pizzi, bears are generally scared of people and wouldn’t become addicted to cocaine so quickly. What’s more, when testing bears using strong opioids, the animal’s reactions show fear rather than aggression. While bears have attacked people, it’s not their tendency to do so, and they typically keep away from humans. Given the effects of cocaine itself, bears who might ingest it could become territorial and irritable, though there’s no evidence they would go on a bloody rampage.

Where Pablo EskoBear Is Now

Keri Russell as Sari, hiding from the bear in Cocaine Bear

Pablo EskoBear now resides at the Kentucky Fun Mall in Lexington, but the poor bear went on quite a journey before landing there. After being stuffed, the Cocaine Bear was initially sent to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area’s visitor center. The bear’s body was then moved to Dalton, Las Vegas, and was allegedly sold to country music singer Waylon Jennings at one point before finally landing at the Fun Mall. In his final resting spot, visitors and tourists can take pictures with the cocaine bear.

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