Elizabeth Banks Directing New Universal Thriller, Lord & Miller Producing

This true story about a real-life bear is almost stranger than fiction.

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Her Charlie’s Angels reboot may not have caught fire at the box office, but Elizabeth Banks is still making some big moves behind the camera, following the news reported by Deadline that she’s set to direct thriller Cocaine Bear for Universal. The Babysitter: Killer Queen writer Jimmy Warden is on scripting duties for the project, which has been described as a character-driven piece inspired by real events that unfolded in 1985.

After doing a little digging, it turns out that the title is a literal description of an actual even. During a drug run from Columbia, a narcotics officer turned smuggler dumped 40 kilos of cocaine over Chattahoochee National Forest, where the entire haul was devoured by a bear. The body was found by the authorities, who declared the cause of death as perhaps the single biggest drug overdose in recorded history. Naturally, the locals dubbed him “Pablo EscoBear,” and his body was stuffed before being turned into a morbid tourist attraction.

The story is undeniably ripe with comedic potential, and as well as Banks directing, Cocaine Bear has Phil Lord and Christopher Miller listed among the producers. It’s the latest collaboration between Banks and Universal, with the actress attached to The Magic School Bus, in which she’ll play Ms. Frizzle. The studio is also behind the Pitch Perfect series, with Banks starring in all three outings and directing the second installment.

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Image via Sony Pictures

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Not only that, but Banks will also direct and play the lead role in The Invisible Woman as Universal tries once more to reinvent the studio’s roster of iconic monsters for modern audiences, which got off to a great start last year with Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man. Lord and Miller still haven’t settled on their next directorial effort, and first since being dismissed from Solo: A Star Wars Story, but the duo have been prolific as producers, with Cocaine Bear just the latest addition to a packed slate that includes HBO Max’s Clone High reboot, upcoming animation The Mitchells vs. the Machines and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 2.

Cocaine Bear is clearly a high-priority project for Universal, who wants to have cameras rolling by the summer. This marks a real change of pace for Banks as a filmmaker, and it’s an excitingly bizarre tale for her to sink her teeth into.

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