Inspired by the 1985 true story of a drug runner’s plane crash, missing cocaine, and the black bear that ate it, Cocaine Bear is a wild dark comedy finds an oddball group of cops, criminals, tourists and teens converging in a Georgia forest where a 500-pound apex predator has ingested a staggering amount of cocaine and gone on a coke-fueled rampage for more blow … and blood.
With Cocaine Bear releasing in Australian cinemas on February 23, the amazing team at Universal Pictures gave me the chance to chat with actors Alden Ehrenreich (Solo: A Star Wars Story) and O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Straight Outta Compton) about how much fun making a movie about a cocaine fuelled bear can really be!
Nick: I’d love to kick things off by asking about your experience working with the late and great Ray Liotta. What was the experience like for you both? And what impact did he leave on you that you will take forward in your careers from here?
Alden Ehrenreich: Yeah, Ray was just such a phenomenal actor and I had the best time with him doing our scenes. There were these great moments where he would get into it a little bit, and Liz Banks [director] would just let us run with it. I remember walking about feeling like acting with him was really thrilling.
He was such a sweet man and seemed to be having a great time when we were filming. We’re all missing him right now. It was fun, but sometimes that pressure of wanting to do great is when you get to know people better and it would have been really nice to be able to have that time with him now.
The chemistry between both of you translates so easily and well on camera. How did you guys bond off screen to get that feeling on screen?
O’Shea Jackson Jr.: We just kinda clicked. I know personally that I was excited. We’re both part of that ‘galaxy far, far away’—
Alden Ehrenreich: Star Trek! [laughs]
O’Shea Jackson Jr. [laughs] But, I mean I was excited to talk about that with him. I was literally coming off of Kenobi and I was pumped to share those experiences with him. We just got along, you know? It really is a plus when you have chemistry off camera because it translates so easily on screen. He’s pretty chill.
Elizabeth Banks said that she really wanted to lean into the gore and horror aspects of this film. Was that part of the appeal to come on board with this project? And was it a lot fun playing around with those aspects?
Alden Ehrenreich: It’s way more gory that I thought it was gonna be! It’s one thing to read that someone’s entrails are going to get dragged across a road. It’s another thing to see it! It was fun though. She [Elizabeth Banks] brought that 80s cult movie sense of humour and sensibility to the gore in a really great way.
There’s a great story about Samuel L. Jackson signing on to Snakes On A Plane just because of the movie’s title. What was your reaction when you saw Cocaine Bear on the front of this script?
O’Shea Jackson Jr.: When I saw title, I was amped. I saw it in a tweet when they said Elizabeth got the rights to the film. Then I clicked and read the article and thought there was no way that they’re really doing this movie called Cocaine Bear! Like, that’s awesome. Take my money right now! I was already signed on as a fan.
But then Elizabeth saw my tweet about it and that’s how I got my call to join the cast. The arc of my character was visible from the beginning, and as an actor, it’s one of those things that you want to jump on because you know you can show your skills a little bit. It allowed me to show a variety of emotions, on top of having an awesome world around it. I’ve said a few times, look at Titanic. Yeah, it’s based on true event, but we don’t know the story or the people who were there, but you want to come see the big boat. It’s the same with Cocaine Bear!
Was there anything in the script, or that your saw filming on set, that you couldn’t believe actually made the final cut? Like for me, the kids spooning the cocaine was insane!
Alden Ehrenreich: Like… all of it!
O’Shea Jackson Jr.: Right! The whole thing!
Alden Ehrenreich: How did we get away with it! There’s not just one thing that was crazy that was allowed to happen! Also, just the fact that it’s a bear. People love bears. They’re funny… but they’re also scary. I hope that’s a quote that stays with me! It’s a bear and it does cocaine! Bing, bang, boom – that’s your movie! [laughs]
Nick: That’s the headline for the article right there!
Alden Ehrenreich: That should be on the poster!
Thank you to Alden and O’Shea for this hilarious chat, and a huge thank you to Universal Pictures for organising the interview. Cocaine Bear is in Australian cinemas February 23.
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