‘Cocaine Bear’ True Story And Characters, Explained: ‘Pablo Eskobear’ And The Gory Details 

After unexpectedly high turnouts of cinemagoers watching Elizabeth Banks’ “Cocaine Bear,” we thought it was time to put on our research hats to separate fact from fiction. “Cocaine Bear” is definitely in line to become a cult favorite in the near future, and people are already looking forward to news of a sequel. So what is the story behind the bear that got amped up on coke in the 80s? It all goes back to a man named Andrew C. Thornton. Thornton was a military man who even received the Purple Heart for his service, but sometime after working for the police department’s narcotics squad, he began a new career. Thornton was arrested by the authorities in around 1977 as he was caught smuggling one thousand pounds of weed into the United States of America. After going to prison, losing his law license, and being on probation for five years, he continued his smuggling run.


On September 11th, 1985, on a mission to smuggle in some cocaine (lots of it) in an aircraft that they themselves were flying, Thornton took his leap of faith. After throwing out bags of cocaine somewhere near Blairsville, Georgia, he jumped out of the aircraft, but his parachute failed to open up. Later, Thornton’s dead body was recovered from a driveway in Knoxville. Apart from being found in Gucci loafers and a bulletproof vest, Thornton was in possession of a duffle bag containing 15 million dollars’ worth of cocaine. On December 3rd, 1985, a whole three months after Thornton’s death, a black bear was found dead in the Chattahoochee National Park. Apparently, this bear had ingested 75 pounds of Thornton’s cocaine, and with 3–4 grams in its bloodstream, it had died of an overdose. The 150-pound black bear was found dead near 40 scattered, torn-open bags of the substance. The bear was then taxidermied and titled “cocaine bear” and, more appropriately, “Pablo Eskobear.” Here’s where Banks and her team took their own creative liberties, creating a hilarious and bloody creature feature that is worth a watch.

The plot follows many sets of people whose lives intervene because of a bear on a mission to find more coke. Let’s explore the important characters and their motivations a little bit. Quickly watch the film and come back for full spoilers ahead.


The Last Mama Standing (With Her Two Children) – Dee Dee, Henry, And Sari 

Dee Dee is a young girl with abandonment issues because her mother is a working nurse who’s never home, and her father has left them. She is highly driven by her art and chooses to ditch school so she can go make a stunning painting of a waterfall in a place called “Blood Mountain.” We are not entirely sure why you would put yourself in such a position. Dee Dee has a close buddy named Henry, who, too, has differences from his neglectful parents and finds comfort in Dee Dee. The two of them hang out together all the time, so even though Henry questions Dee Dee’s actions, he decides to go along with her anyway. Sari is Dee Dee’s mother, who finds her child missing after getting a call from the school saying she was absent the whole day. She puts her detective shoes on immediately, finding a map with the circled-out waterfalls. Sari is quick to catch on and rushes to the national park where she starts searching for her missing daughter and Henry. Dee Dee and Sari’s relationship is difficult because of Dee Dee’s age, but Sari never gives up on her and is a strong-willed mother who will do anything to save her child, just like Cocaine Bear herself. It is interesting to see that Sari, Dee Dee, and Henry are some of the first people to come across the cocaine bear but manage to survive till the end. Just as mama bear and her two cubs survive and have a happy ending. 

Lost Lovers: Park Rangers And Animal Rights Activists

Liz is the park ranger who feels alone. She believes nobody understands her worth in protecting the forest. Liz is aggressive, but she’s blinded by Peter, who is only here for the animals. Liz probably gets attention from Peter because they often meet for the job, and so she feels like he has some interest in her. Peter, on the other hand, is quite blindsided by the forest, and although he seems to be a good guy, he’s unfortunately killed by the bear quite quickly. Peter doesn’t believe Henry’s words because he trusts the animals, but he obviously couldn’t have imagined the bear had taken cocaine, of course. Liz’s demise is the result of her own over-confidence; she is unable to shoot at the bear and accidentally kills a boy instead because of her terrible aim. Still, she manages to stay alive until the ambulance arrives, but the coke-fueled bear is too fast for the vehicle too. Her scratchy death is definitely one of the more memorable ones in the film! 


Bob, The Builder

Sorry, detective. Bob is the resident investigator who has been chasing Syd and his gang for a long time. He’s righteous and loves his badge. Bob is keen on making a name for himself and establishing a certain image. When he gets a dog that doesn’t match that image, he wants to give her away. Rosette is not one to play fetch, and he wants a robust dog just like himself—”a man’s best friend.” But when he’s about to die, he realizes his love for the dog. He is capable of understanding and hopes she is cared for. Bob is a great officer because he sacrifices his ambition to catch Syd and his own life to save some young men, who were supposed to be his enemies because they were in the forest to get the drugs for Syd.

Daddy Issues: Syd’s Gang

Eddie is distressed by the loss of his wife and gives the responsibility of his son to his father, Syd, who just cannot be the right person to take care of a young boy. Syd is a drug lord who gives Daveed, one of his trusted men, the responsibility of retrieving the drugs from the park. He also tells him to bring Eddie with him so that Eddie can return to the family business. Eddie is absolutely done with being associated with his father. After narrowly escaping the bear, Eddie tells his father to give up on getting the drugs and just leave. Syd tells him that he’s doing all of this because the men he works with would come after his family. Eddie isn’t bothered by that, he doesn’t even entirely believe his father because at this point, he just wants to go home to his son.  Eddie doesn’t want to be a part of this illegal business and hopes to make a good life for him and his young son. At the time of traveling with Daveed, he is heartbroken and needs time to grieve, but by the end of the film the combined experiences of Daveed and he make him a changed man. Daveed is a loyal friend with minor anger issues, but Eddie learns to look at him as a friend and not just a drug dealer. Through their journey in the forest, the friends get closer and forget their differences, forging a bond for life.


The Troublemakers: Vest, Ponytail, And Stache

First of all, what are these names? Clearly, teenagers have always been strange, and this pack has been doing the rounds terrorizing innocent people at the park. Two of them suffer terrible deaths, but Stache manages to survive till the end and live their collective dream of being in New York. Stache is the only one of them that we really get to know, and he helps Eddie with his emotional trauma in the middle of all the running from a high bear.

Special Mention: The Ambulance Duo

This movie wouldn’t have been so good if it weren’t for Tom and Beth, the paramedics. The sequence in which the bear chases down their ambulance, managing to jump in and destroying any form of life is unforgettable. Beth getting flung out of the car to her instant death is probably the worst way to go while being attacked by an actual bear. At least she could’ve survived the blow, but alas. They did try to save Liz, who was the only one alive by the time they reached her, but they couldn’t do that either.


Who was your favorite character in “Cocaine Bear”?

See more: ‘Cocaine Bear’ Ending, Explained: Did Sari Find Dee Dee? What Does The Post-Credit Scene Mean?

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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika, or "Ru," is a fashion designer and stylist by day and a serial binge-watcher by night. She dabbles in writing when she has the chance and loves to entertain herself with reading, K-pop dancing, and the occasional hangout with friends.

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