‘Cocaine Bear’ Cast Members Talk “Gnarly” Kills & Working With Ray Liotta
Feb 21, 2023
Elizabeth Banks’s star-studded dark comedy, Cocaine Bear, is fast approaching. Since it was first announced, the buzz for Pablo Escobear’s big-screen debut has been nonstop. Not only is the premise pretty far out there and something new for audiences to sink their teeth into, but it also boasts a pretty phenomenal cast. The movie stars Keri Russell, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Margo Martindale, Matthew Rhys, Kristofer Hivju, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Alden Ehrenreich, and the late, Ray Liotta.
Inspired by true events that took place in the mid-eighties, Cocaine Bear gives a blow-by-blow account of the unbelievable mishap… only, with a lot more blood. When a drug runner drops an outstanding amount of cocaine on the aptly-called Blood Mountain in Georgia, a 500-pound black bear ingests a brick of it before it can be picked up. Coked-up, the bear goes on a rampage, leaving a trail of gore in its wake. Unlike what actually happened, if this bear is going down, he’s taking drug dealers, tourists, and cops down with him.
COLLIDER VIDEO OF THE DAY
Before Cocaine Bear’s worldwide release in theaters on February 24, Collider’s Steve Weintraub spoke with Alden Ehrenreich and O’Shea Jackson Jr., who play two of the criminals that find themselves directly in the bear’s warpath. During their interview, the duo discusses how the movie lives up to its “zany” premise, the hysterical promotional trail they’ve been on, which kill is the gnarliest, and what it was like working with Isiah Whitlock Jr. and the late Ray Liotta. Jackson teases Season 2 of Swagger and his plans after Den of Thieves 2’s strict regimen, and Ehrenreich talks about working on Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer and getting to talk to Robert Downey Jr. on set before his role in Ironheart. You can watch the interview in the player above, or read the full transcript below.
Image via Universal
COLLIDER: Congrats on the movie. I laughed a lot. But I am curious, for both of you, are you surprised a little bit that you got cast? Because I heard you had to be in The Americans, the TV show, to get into this.
ALDEN EHRENREICH: Yeah, exactly. Oh, yeah.
O’SHEA JACKSON JR.: No, I knew from the jump once I got the call from (director) Elizabeth [Banks]. It’s because I put out a tweet when they announced that she got the rights to Cocaine Bear. I put out a tweet praising the movie before they had even got into production, and once I got the call that like, “Hey, Elizabeth Banks wants you to be in Cocaine Bear.” I knew it. The stars had aligned. I’m going.
Being serious, it’s very rare, after over 100 years of movie making, for there to be a movie that I’ve never seen before, and this is that movie. When you first heard about it, when you got the script were you like, “Get the F out of here!” when you were reading what you wanted to do in this thing?
EHRENREICH: Yeah, I mean from the very beginning that’s always been what’s so exciting about it. It’s different, you know? Especially a big studio movie that’s not based on something you’ve heard of before that’s a new idea, that’s as crazy and zany as it is, and I think that’s one of the things people are already responding to.
I’ve never been a part of something that wasn’t already a thing that people knew about like a year and a half ago. People would be like, “Oh yeah, I’ve heard about Cocaine Bear,” because you hear the title, it’s so weird. Then the movie really lives up to that fun, zany kind of audacious adventure that it is.
I also wasn’t even sure if, like maybe 20 years ago, you could do a title like Cocaine Bear. The fact that the title is actually Cocaine Bear is crazy.
EHRENREICH: Yeah, totally.
JACKSON JR.: Yeah, dude, all day I’m tripping off the fact that we’re doing interviews with like CNN, morning news. They’re like, “So, Cocaine Bear… Talk about this bear on cocaine.”
EHRENREICH: [Laughs] Exactly.
JACKSON JR.: It’s insane!
Image via Universal Pictures
So the movie has some great kills that are bloody and funny and unexpected. Did you have a favorite kill or is there a kill that you’re most looking forward to audiences seeing?
JACKSON JR.: I wait for the premiere so I haven’t seen it yet, but I know from reading that that last one should be something to see.
EHRENREICH: Yeah, I think the last one is a pretty big one. Yeah, that one’s pretty big.
JACKSON JR.: I’m excited.
EHRENREICH: I can’t give it away, but it’s some gnarly stuff.
When the bear is on screen – when I saw it – people were very, very happy. I’ll say it like that. You guys worked with Isiah [Whitlock Jr.]. How long before you asked him to say, “Sheeeit”?
JACKSON JR.: Funny story, the wrap gift that he gives you is actually a bobblehead of him saying “Sheeeit.”
EHRENREICH: Wow, I didn’t get one.
JACKSON JR.: It’s all right, bro. It’s a Black thing. But yeah, he loved it. He was such a great dude. Utmost professional.
EHRENREICH: Yeah, he was great.
JACKSON JR.: He gave this speech when he wrapped that was just like–
EHRENREICH: Yeah, people were crying.
JACKSON JR.: Yeah, like the whole time we’re just like, “Damn, I’ll never be an actor like Isiah Whitlock. He’s just the dopest dude, man. I can’t wait to see him again.
Image via Universal
You guys got to work with Ray Liotta. I was a huge fan of Ray’s work. I’m not trying to bring the interview down, but can you talk a little bit about working with him?
EHRENREICH: Yeah, it was such an honor to be able to get to work with him, and I’m so glad that I did. I mean, he was so fantastic when we were doing the scenes. You can feel that he just had this enormous power, and it’s one thing to see that as a fan on screen, but it’s another thing to actually be in the scenes with him. It was really great that this was a movie that it seemed like he was having a ball making, you know, and he really had a lot of fun. So he’ll be very missed.
They don’t really get along. [Laughs]
JACKSON JR.: [Laughs] Yeah, it wasn’t a Black thing. No, but it’s an honor. You know, I didn’t get into acting… I didn’t want to be an actor, I just had the perfect storm to make this job work. Since 2012, I’ve just been trying to make it work, and when you’re able to work with the giants in this industry, like Ray Liotta, it’s just a gift that you didn’t know that you needed.
It’s terrible that we won’t be able to, you know, party with him at the premiere, or those types of things, but we are honored that we get to be in one of his last works, and we know that he would have been thrilled with how crazy our movie turned out.
Image via Universal
I have an individual question for each of you. O’Shea, what can you tease people about Den of Thieves 2 because I know you start shooting soon, and also Swagger Season 2? And Alden, you get to be in Ironheart, and you got to work with [Christopher] Nolan on Oppenheimer, which is kind of cool. Can you talk about those things?
JACKSON JR.: Swagger Season 2 will be out in June. You know, the kids are older so it’s just gonna be bigger and better. As far as the basketball, [there are] a lot of things happening between Jace and Ike this year because he’s starting to be a man on his own, going into high school, then going into college. He’s not on the AAU anymore. So it’s a nice dynamic to be able to do with my man, Isaiah Hill.
Then, Den of Thieves 2, we’re getting ready to go. They got me training and on my regimen every day. I told them that after this one, after how much they’re kicking my ass, “I’m going straight to animation, baby. Nothing but video games and cartoons for about half a decade. Kiss my ass.”
EHRENREICH: My answer is not gonna be as exciting as that. Yeah, just super cool Ironheart. I can’t talk about it very much, but it was a great, great, great experience, and I loved the people who were making it, and I think it’s a really cool, new chapter, a new world within the MCU.
And then Oppenheimer was what I live for, which is working with great film directors. It was just a fucking unbelievable experience, and I worked mostly with [Robert Downey Jr.]. That was right before I did Ironheart, so that was really fun because I got to talk to him about that. And, that’s gonna be a great movie.
Cocaine Bear is in theaters worldwide on February 24. For more on the film, watch our interview with director Elizabeth Banks.
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