'Cocaine Bear' is based on true events — here are which details in the movie really happened and which were made up

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  • "Cocaine Bear" is based on a black bear who ate cocaine in 1985.

  • Insider broke down some of the biggest moments in the movie, and whether they are fact or fiction.

  • "Cocaine Bear" is currently playing in theaters.

Fact: A bear ate cocaine. A lot of it.

black bear with dust of cocaine around it
"Cocaine Bear."Universal

Though the Elizabeth Banks-directed movie seems outlandish, there is some truth to the story.

In September 1985, a 175-pound black bear came across pounds of cocaine and began chowing down on it.

Fiction: The bear killed hikers.

A woman stretching out her hand as a bear pulls her into the woods
Hannah Hoekstra in "Cocaine Bear."Universal

In the movie, after the bear gets some cocaine, it is so out of its mind that it begins to attack hikers and eventually kills one of them.

There is zero evidence that the bear killed anyone in real life while it was high.

Fact: A drug dealer jumped out of a plane with cocaine strapped to him.

Matthew Rhys at doorway of plane wearing a parachute
Matthew Rhys in "Cocaine Bear."Universal

Believe it or not, the opening of the movie is kind of accurate.

This whole madness began because, on one night in 1985, a plane carrying close to 200 pounds of cocaine was thrown out over Georgia by convicted drug smuggler Andrew C. Thornton II (played by Matthew Rhys in the movie).

In real life, Thornton was a narcotics officer and lawyer. Eventually, he turned to the other side of the law.

In the movie, Thornton prepares to jump out of the plane but knocks his head while trying to exit, causing him to become unconscious and drop to his death.

In real life, Thornton exited the plane just fine but he got tied up in his parachute and landed head first, which killed him instantly on the driveway of Fred Myers' house in Knoxville, Tennessee.

At the time of his death, Thornton was wearing a bulletproof vest, Gucci loafers, night-vision goggles, 77 pounds of cocaine, and two pistols.

Fiction: Drug dealers went looking for the cocaine.

O’Shea Jackson, Jr., Alden Ehrenreich, Ayoola Smart, and Ray Liotta walking in high grass
(L-R) O’Shea Jackson, Jr., Alden Ehrenreich, Ayoola Smart, and Ray Liotta in "Cocaine Bear."Pat Redmond/Universal

In the movie, O'Shea Jackson, Jr., Alden Ehrenreich, and Ray Liotta's characters are tasked with recovering the cocaine that was thrown out of the plane.

There's no evidence that anyone went looking for the coke.

Fact: The drug dealer who jumped out of the plane got on the news.

Tom Brokaw reporting about a drug drop in Knoxville, Tennessee
Tom Brokaw reporting the death of Andrew C. Thornton II.NBC

On September 11, 1985, Tom Brokaw reported Thornton's death on NBC's "Nightly News with Tom Brokaw."

In that report, there was also footage of police investigating the death at the driveway of Fred Myers' home.

Banks said she and her production team studied that footage so it would match the footage they shot on the "Cocaine Bear" set in Ireland.

"We recreated in Ireland the shots from the footage of the accident," she told Insider. "The way everyone dressed, the people in the background, that came right out of the research."

Fiction: Kids tried the cocaine.

Brooklynn Prince and Christian Convery standing in the woods
Brooklynn Prince and Christian Convery in "Cocaine Bear."Pat Redmond/Universal

In the movie, two teens (Brooklynn Prince and Christian Convery) who skipped school find the drug in the woods and try it.

As far as we know, this is total fiction — and we are going to keep telling ourselves that.

Fact: The bear ate cocaine inside the Chattahoochee National Forest.

bear on a tree
"Cocaine Bear."Universal

The movie is set in Georgia's Chattahoochee National Forest (though in reality it was shot in Ireland). This was where the bear ate the cocaine.

Fiction: The coked-out bear attacked an ambulance.

bear jumping into an ambulance
"Cocaine Bear."Universal

Though it's one of the best sequences of the movie, no, a bear high on cocaine did not attack an ambulance.

However, Banks calls that sequence the movie's "iconic moment."

"I do not use any slow motion in the movie except for one moment, and that moment is the bear jumping into the back of the ambulance," she told Insider.

"That was very intentional," she continued. "I'm not a huge fan of slow-mo in action sequences. This movie didn't require anything like that. But I did feel that we needed one moment where you just went, 'Oh shit.' Because other than that, I wanted the bear to be realistic. We didn't push it too far, except for that one moment."

Fact: The bear died from eating the cocaine.

Aaron Holliday and O’Shea Jackson, Jr. next to a bear
(L-R) Aaron Holliday and O’Shea Jackson, Jr. in "Cocaine Bear."Universal

A few months after Thornton's death, authorities found a dead bear in the Chattahoochee National Forest beside 40 opened containers, all with traces of cocaine.

Authorities believe the bear had been dead for four weeks before it was found.

Fiction: The bear did anything — especially violent acts — after eating the cocaine.

Bear with blood on its snout
"Cocaine Bear."Universal

The reality is the bear didn't do much of anything after eating the cocaine.

"We saw the necropsy report from that bear," Banks told Insider. "We know exactly what happened. When it OD'd, literally all of its functions shut down. Its heart basically burst, its liver burst, and the bear was found surrounded by the drugs that were dropped."

Fact: The real bear is now stuffed and on display in a Kentucky mall under the name "Pablo EskoBear."

An American black bear.
An American black bear.Getty Images

The black bear that ate cocaine has had quite a journey since its death. It's now the main attraction at a retail store called the Fun Mall in Lexington, Kentucky where it has a sign over its neck with its name: Pablo EskoBear.

The Full Mall website recounts how the bear got from the woods of Georgia to its mall.

Its remains were still in good shape after its death, leading the doctor who examined it to get it taxidermied and gift it to the Chattahoochee National Forest.

It stayed there until the early 1990s when it was moved due to an oncoming wildfire.

While in storage, it was stolen and ended up in the possession of country-music legend Waylon Jennings, who is a fan of taxidermy and got it from a pawn shop.

Jennings then gave it to a friend in Las Vegas. That friend died and someone else in Nevada got the bear at an auction.

At this point, no one knew the history of the bear. But around 2015, the owners of the Fun Mall tracked it down and became the owners of what is now one of the most famous bears in American history.

Banks told Insider that the movie's production designer, Aaron Haye, went to Fun Mall to see the bear for himself.

When we asked Banks if she believes Pablo EskoBear is the actual cocaine bear she answered: "100%."

Read the original article on Insider