Film about legendary Kentucky 'Cocaine Bear' starring Ray Liotta to be released in 2023

The Cocaine Bear, now shown at the Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall, was a 175-pound black bear from Chattahoochee National Forest that died after eating about 75 pounds of cocaine that was lost by Kentuckian drug smuggler Andrew Thornton in 1985. The Georgia state examiner had the animal taxidermised. Waylon Jennings once owned the stuffed bear. March 4, 2020.
The Cocaine Bear, now shown at the Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall, was a 175-pound black bear from Chattahoochee National Forest that died after eating about 75 pounds of cocaine that was lost by Kentuckian drug smuggler Andrew Thornton in 1985. The Georgia state examiner had the animal taxidermised. Waylon Jennings once owned the stuffed bear. March 4, 2020.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The story of an infamous Kentucky bear reported in the New York Times in 1985 is the subject of a new film being directed by actress and director Elizabeth Banks. The movie is scheduled for release on February 24, 2023.

If you live in Kentucky you may know the story of "Cocaine Bear," a 175-pound black bear who unfortunately consumed the contents of a duffle bag filled with more than 70 pounds of cocaine. (That's roughly $15 million worth of "blow.")

The drugs were dropped from an airplane by a local drug smuggler, Andrew Thornton. The drug smuggler, who was the son of a wealthy Kentucky family of horse breeders, didn't fare too well either.

According to a display at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation headquarters, Thornton fell to his death when he bailed out of the plane, "hit his head on the tail of the aircraft" and didn't open his parachute until it was too late.

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Thornton's body was found near Knoxville, Tennessee, and nine duffle bags filled with coke were eventually recovered along his plane's flight path. Unfortunately Cocaine Bear found the 10th bag of coke in the woods just south of the Tennessee-Georgia state line. He was found dead next to a ripped-open bag with about 76 pounds of cocaine in his stomach.

Universal is behind "Cocaine Bear," which was written by Jimmy Warden. The project wrapped filming in Ireland last October and was one of actor Ray Liotta's final projects. Liotta died on May 2022 at 67 years old in his sleep while shooting “Dangerous Waters” in the Dominican Republic.

Also appearing in Cocaine Bear are Keri Russell, O'Shea Jackson Jr., Alden Ehrenreich, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Christian Convery, Margo Martindale, and Matthew Rhys.

Banks was last behind the camera on Sony Pictures' "Charlie's Angels" reboot, starring Kristen Stewart. Her other feature directing credit was on "Pitch Perfect 2."

As we wait for February 2023 and the film version of this bear-centric thriller, the real furry icon has found a permanent home in the Bluegrass State. Cocaine Bear was stuffed and is now the mascot at the Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall, 720 Bryan Ave., Lexington.

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Reach Kirby Adams at kadams@courier-journal.com or Twitter @kirbylouisville

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Elizabeth Banks to direct a movie about Kentucky 'Cocaine Bear'