“Cocaine Bear,” a new movie by Elizabeth Banks, is now in theaters, and it’s full of severed limbs, bloody bodies, and gruesome chaos. But that’s not really how the real story of the Cocaine Bear, also called Pablo Eskobear, would be told. Jimmy Warden wrote the script for Banks’ movie, which was based on the discovery of a dead bear in Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest in 1985.
The real story behind “Cocaine Bear” began in September 1985, when Andrew Thornton, who had been caught smuggling drugs, died in a parachuting accident.
The working theory is that Thorton was flying with 880 pounds of cocaine and thought the Feds were following him, so he threw some of the stash out of the plane and took more with him when he parachuted out. His plan didn’t work out.
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On September 11, 1985, it was said that Thorton had died. He was found in a driveway in Knoxville, Tennessee, wearing Gucci loafers and with about $15 million worth of cocaine strapped to his body.
A bear didn’t show up until four months after that. In December 1985, the New York Times said that a 175-pound black bear “died of a cocaine overdose after finding a batch of the drug.” Chattahoochee National Forest is where the bear’s body was found.
The United Press International report read –
“The cocaine was apparently dropped from a plane piloted by Andrew Thornton, a convicted drug smuggler who died Sept. 11 in Knoxville, Tenn., because he was carrying too heavy a load while parachuting.”
“The bureau said the bear was found Friday in northern Georgia among 40 opened plastic containers with traces of cocaine.”
Dr. Kenneth Alonso, who was Georgia’s chief medical examiner at the time, gave his findings to the Associated Press. The doctor did an autopsy on the bear and found that it had three or four grams of cocaine in its blood, but the bear could have taken even more. There have been rumors for a long time that the bear ate all 40 containers of cocaine, which is about 35 pounds.
In real life, that’s pretty much the end of the story of the Cocaine Bear. In contrast to the new horror comedy from Universal Pictures, there were no other dead bodies or severed limbs in the forest that could be traced back to the bear. As screenwriter Jimmy Warden told Variety, the film is not historical fiction but “my twisted fantasy of what I wish actually happened after the bear did all that cocaine.”
Banks told Variety that she agreed to direct “Cocaine Bear” because she thought it would give the bear a chance to tell his own story. After reading the original reports from 1985, she said she felt “deep sympathy” for the bear.
Banks said –
“I really felt like this is so fucked up that this bear got dragged into this drug run gone bad and ends up dead.”
“I felt like this movie could be that bear’s revenge story.”
“Cocaine Bear” is now in theaters all over the country.