Elizabeth Banks Defends 'Controversial' Cocaine Bear Scene of Kids on Drugs: 'There Were Conversations'
Universal Pictures/YouTube Brooklynn Prince and Christian Convery in Cocaine Bear (2023)
Elizabeth Banks is making a case for one of Cocaine Bear's "controversial" scenes involving children.
The R-rated film features a scene in which two kids (played by Brooklynn Prince and Christian Convery) stumble on abandoned cocaine in the woods and try it. Banks, 48, told Variety there were discussions behind the scenes on how to handle that moment in the action-comedy.
"It was definitely controversial. There were conversations about, should we age up these characters? We all kind of held hands and we were like, 'Guys, they've got to be 12.' It's their innocence being tested," she said. "That's what was interesting to me about that scene."
Producer Christopher Miller added, "It's the naïveté of the kids that makes it okay. It's what makes it so tense and funny. It doesn't work if they're teenagers. It has to be that age where you don't know anything, but you want to pretend like you do."
RELATED: Elizabeth Banks Says Ray Liotta 'Had a Great Time' Making Cocaine Bear Weeks Before His Death
Art Streiber for Variety
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.
Banks explained that she wanted to make a "muscular and masculine" movie with Cocaine Bear (which is inspired by a true story) and "break down some of the mythology around what kinds of movies women are interested in making." She added that she demanded the film retain its shocking title.
"I lived through Zach and Miri Make a Porno, and the title was a problem," she said, referring to the 2008 Kevin Smith comedy she co-starred in with Seth Rogen. "But I think Zach and Miri Make a Porno now would be like, 'Whatever.' I don't really think anyone would even shy away from it. Because words don't matter anymore. Words really don't matter anymore."
Also in the Variety interview, Banks reflected on her own real-life approach to drugs, saying she never experimented with cocaine: "I took 'Just say no' to heart. Being a goody-two-shoes played into it. Personal safety played a big role in it. I was a cocktail waitress for years. And I was not interested in not being sober for the s--- I saw."
Cocaine Bear — which also stars Keri Russell, Alden Ehrenreich, Margo Martindale, O'Shea Jackson Jr., Jesse Tyler Ferguson and the late Ray Liotta — is in theaters Feb. 24.