"Cocaine Bear" Is Actually Based On A True Story — Here's What Happened

    Directed by Elizabeth Banks, the story is actually inspired by the 1985 true story of a drug runner's plane crash, missing cocaine, and the black bear that ate it.

    In case you haven't heard of it, Cocaine Bear is a new dark comedy about a bear that accidentally eats a bunch of cocaine, then goes on a rampage through a national park forest. 🙃 Think of it as Final Destination meets The Cabin in the Woods...with a 500-pound bear thrown in there, LOL.

    A black bear growling with clouds of cocaine around its head

    Directed by Elizabeth Banks, the story is actually inspired by the 1985 true story of a drug runner's plane crash, missing cocaine, and the black bear that ate it. And here are the real-life facts:

    1. So there really was a "cocaine bear," a black bear that ate a bunch of cocaine in the woods back in 1985.

    Black bear in a tree

    2. And it was eventually given the nickname "Pablo Escobear" (or "Eskobear," as it's sometimes spelled), named after the notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar.

    Plaque that says "cocaine bear"

    3. However, unlike the massive 500-pound "apex predator" bear in the movie, the real-life one was a bit smaller, weighing in at just 175 pounds.

    Newspaper clipping about the 175-pound black bear that died of an overdose in George, with headline "Cocaine and a Dead Bear"

    4. Although the bear kills PLENTY of people in the film, the bear didn't actually kill anyone in real life.

    Close-up of bear covered in blood

    5. Sadly, the real bear was found dead in the mountains of Fannin County, Georgia, just over the border from Tennessee.

    Mountain range

    6. Apparently, the bear had been dead for about four weeks before it was even found.

    Close-up of bear claw

    7. And its body was found next to a duffel bag that had previously been filled with a bunch of cocaine — 70 pounds’ worth, to be exact.

    News footage of duffel bag full of cocaine

    8. According to Gary Garner, an agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation at the time, "The bear got to it before we could, and he tore the duffel bag open, got him some cocaine, and OD’d."

    Plane wreckage

    9. Authorities also believed that "others" (that is, more animals) probably ate some of the cocaine as well.

    News footage of a bear in the woods

    10. After an autopsy, it was revealed that although the bear had "a stomach full of cocaine," just 4 grams of cocaine was actually found in its blood.

    Bear eating cocaine

    11. But that was enough to cause all kinds of deadly problems, like "cerebral hemorrhage, respiratory failure, heart failure, stroke, hyperthermia, and renal failure, among other symptoms."

    X-ray of a bear skull

    12. The bear's body was eventually stuffed, and it is actually on display in Lexington, Kentucky, now.

    The stuffed bear on display

    13. Allegedly, the stuffed bear was even owned by country singer Waylon Jennings at one point.

    The "cocaine bear" on display on the news

    14. The drug smuggler in the film was really named Andrew C. Thornton II, and according to the filmmakers, he was "an Army paratrooper turned racehorse trainer turned narcotics cop turned DEA agent turned lawyer turned cocaine smuggler."

    Image of Andrew Thornton with a mustache and sideburns

    15. Although Thornton is portrayed as acting alone in the film, in real life, he had been accompanied by a man named Bill Leonard, a former karate instructor.

    A Cessna plane in the air

    16. According to Leonard, he and Thornton flew a Cessna 404 airplane to Colombia on Sept. 9, 1985.

    Aerial view of the Sinu River in Colombia

    17. While in Colombia, the men apparently ate "what turned out to be parrot" and became "deathly ill with food poisoning."

    Red big parrot

    18. Later, their plane was loaded with kilos of cocaine, and they were given parachutes as well. Then the two men headed back to the United States.

    Bag of cocaine that says "USA"

    19. According to Leonard, they believed that "somewhere over Florida," they heard federal agents talk about following their plane over the radio. So Leonard began dumping bags of cocaine out of the plane.

    Aerial drone view of suburban Miami neighborhood

    20. After a bit of a fight over this, the men eventually decided to abandon the plane. Leonard jumped out first.

    Parasailing in dusk against mountainous background and moon in the sky

    21. Thornton was second to jump, but his parachute didn't open.

    News footage of Thornton's parachute being collected by police

    22. Leonard apparently landed near an airport in Knoxville, Tennessee, walked to a grocery store, called a cab, and went on to meet Thornton's girlfriend at a hotel in downtown Knoxville (as they had planned).

    Single person walking on street in the dark night

    23. Thornton, however, was found dead in the backyard of a home in Knoxville wearing a parachute, Gucci loafers, and combat fatigues, and with several weapons and a bag of cocaine.

    A police officer crouching down and counting dollar bills

    24. Finally, by that afternoon, on Sept. 11, 1985, narcotics agents and police, along with officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration, Customs, and the Federal Aviation Administration, had come to the site, and Thornton's body was easily identified, thanks to several forms of identification and a key to the airplane that he'd been carrying.

    Crime scene investigators

    If you wanna see the fictionalized version of this wild story, Cocaine Bear is in theaters now! Here's the official trailer:

    View this video on YouTube

    Universal Pictures / Via youtube.com