Take director Elizabeth Banks, add performances by Keri Russel (Congratulations, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), Alden Ehrenreich (Solo: A Star Wars Story) and the late Ray Liotta (Freedmen, space muppets), add a bear and a few kilos of contraband cocaine, and you have the recipe for a resounding success!
Universal cocaine bearwhich hits theaters today (and the first reactions are stellar), is a fantastic account of real events. In 1985, Andrew Thornton, himself a former narcotics officer, was smuggling 800 pounds from Columbia into the United States when he had to abandon his plane. Thornton threw himself with the cocaine from his small private plane somewhere over a national park in Georgia. He was found dead shortly after, never having recovered the drugs.
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They were instead found by a wild bear, who consumed them and promptly died. Rather than go on a murderous rampage, the unsuspecting real-life bear appears to have expired from his first and only coke binge without harming anyone. When you catch cocaine bear in theaters, you’ll see a violent reimagining of what might have happened if the bear had lived. The bear’s continued existence isn’t the only lie you’ll see onscreen, in exchange for a few hours of pure adrenaline-fueled escapism. As the story takes place in Georgia, where the real Pablo Escobear lived, Cocaine Bear was actually shot entirely on another continent.
FILMING IN COUNTY WICKLOW IN IRELAND
Wicklow is in the eastern and central region of Ireland, bordered by the Irish Sea, and was formalized as a county in 1606. The name derives from its historical name “Víkingaló”, which is translated from Old Norse as “Vikings’ Meadow”. Despite its name, it wasn’t the grasslands that Banks and company were interested in, it was the diversity of other nearby landscapes.
Wicklow is home to just about every type of terrain you’re looking for, from beaches to cave systems to woodlands. As a result, Wicklow has seen an increase in film activity in recent years. A large part of the vikings TV show (streaming on Peacock!) was filmed on location or in the studio in Wicklow. Other notable projects include AMC’s In the Badlands and Disney’s next fairy tale sequel Disillusioned.
For cocaine bear, Banks relied on several locations in Wicklow to recreate Georgia’s bear-stemmed woods, including Barnaslingan Woods and Powerscourt Waterfall. Barnaslingan Wood is located on the eastern slope of what is called the Scalp. It is a large geological formation, a remnant of a glacier that carved out a valley in the area around 12,000 years ago as the ice receded from the last major ice age. Where there was once an incredible glacial lake, there is now a lush forest dotted with granite boulders that conveniently resembles forests in the southern United States.
Powerscourt Waterfall has also made appearances in vikingsas good as 1981 fantasy film Excalibur and the 1988 fantasy classic willow. Powerscourt is Ireland’s second highest waterfall, standing nearly 121 meters (400 feet), at the foot of Wicklow’s River Gargle. The falls are on the wider grounds of Powerscourt, a historic 13th century castle which was renovated in the 18th century. The estate is currently owned by the Slazenger family, who purchased it from the 9th Viscount Powerscourt in 1961.
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Today, tourists and film crews can access the waterfall for a fee, paid to the estate. Interestingly, in 1821 the 5th Viscount Powerscourt, Richard Wingfield, had the waterfall dammed during a visit from King George IV, with the intention that they both release the dam and watch the torrent of water from a nearby purpose-built bridge. For reasons that remain unknown, King George never had time to visit the falls and the flood was postponed. It was just as well for George IV, when the waterfall was finally released, the explosion of water was so large that the observation deck was swept away. In our opinion, being the framework of cocaine bearDrug-fueled animal-human carnage is a much better legacy. And by all accounts, Wicklow is not only a beautiful backdrop, but a joy to be in.
Elizabeth Banks, in an interview with Jo, said of the experience: “I loved filming in Ireland, such a beautiful place. Amazing people, great team. We really couldn’t have been happier there.” Banks continued, “And it was a perfect game against Georgia. People can’t believe when they see the movie. They can’t believe it’s not Georgia.
If you are planning your next vacation, rest assured that you will be safe from any bears under the influence. Bears once roamed the wilds of Ireland, but became extinct around 3,000 years ago. Today, the country’s only bears reside in captivity or wildlife reserves.
If you want your bear fix, you’re going to have to look elsewhere. May we suggest Cocaine Bear, in theaters now! Click here to buy tickets.
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