Elizabeth Banks’ dark comedy Cocaine Bear has been a hit among movie-goers this year, and now folks are getting a chance to learn more about the bizarre true story that inspired it. The documentary Cocaine Bear: The True Story will premiere on Peacock this Friday, April 14th.
Featuring Banks as an executive producer, the new documentary will focus on Kentuckian Andrew C. Thornton II, a Fort Bragg-trained paratrooper and Lexington police officer who became involved in international drug smuggling operations in the late 1970s. In 1985, Thornton bailed from an airplane over Georgia and his body was found in Knoxville, Tennessee, clad in a bulletproof vest and Gucci slippers, and in possession of millions of dollars of cocaine… much of which had found its way to the belly of a 175-pound black bear.
While the fictitious Cocaine Bear followed a hypothetical narrative of what could’ve happened if the bear had survived its dosage, The True Story will use first-hand accounts to dive into Thornton’s strange backstory, offering a peek into this bizarre world of drug-related corruption. As outlined in investigative reporter Sally Denton’s 2016 book The Bluegrass Conspiracy, Thornton’s operations were entwined with law enforcement agencies, and had possible connections going up to the Kentucky state government, the FBI, and the CIA. Lexington police officer Ralph Ross even suggested that Thornton was involved in the Iran-Contra scandal.
Aptly described as “stranger than fiction,” one result of all of this corruption and crime was the death of a curious bear. Banks described her comedy as a “revenge story” of sorts for the bear, which ended up being “collateral damage in this War on Drugs.” Now, with this documentary, she’s getting to shed even more light on the unfortunate events that created a weirdly entertaining pocket of history for crime, cinema, and biology alike. Watch the trailer below.
Banks’ Cocaine Bear will also land on Peacock on April 14th. The film earned Banks a “Beary Best” award from PETA, in recognition of her noble decision to not give any actual bears actual cocaine.