Why Elizabeth Banks insisted Cocaine Bear had to be called Cocaine Bear

A bear seemingly sniffing a butterfly.
Director of Cocaine Bear Elizabeth Banks said she'd only do it, if it kept its title. Photo credit: YouTube

Elizabeth Banks agreed to direct Cocaine Bear on the condition that the studio wouldn't change the film's title.

The Pitch Perfect 2 director reunited with Universal executives for the thriller-comedy, about an American black bear that goes on a killing spree after it ingests a duffel bag full of cocaine.

When Banks was sent the script, the movie "flashed before (her) eyes", but before she agreed to direct the feature, she had one stipulation - studio bosses had to vow to keep the title Cocaine Bear.

"I lived through Zack and Miri Make a Porno, and the title was a problem," she explained, referencing the 2008 comedy she starred in.

"But I think Zack 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."

Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley was committed to making the movie because she had reservations about trying to market a movie with a drug reference in the title.

"Having a title like Cocaine Bear means that it's going to be restricted from certain avenues of marketing that we might ordinarily use," she added.

After Banks took on the job, she was adamant about it being gory, making the CGI bear as realistic as possible and keeping in a scene in which naïve 12-year-olds try the cocaine, which has been dropped in the woods by drug smugglers.

"It was definitely controversial," Banks acknowledged.

"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. That's what was interesting to me about that scene."

Cocaine Bear, starring Keri Russell, O'Shea Jackson Jr. and Alden Ehrenreich, will be released in cinemas on 23 February.