Elizabeth Banks is defending a controversial scene in her upcoming dark comedy.
The actress-turned-director is behind “Cocaine Bear” which follows, as its title hints, a bear who accidentally consumes cocaine. The bear isn’t the only one in the movie who samples the drug, however, as a group of children also discover one of the packages.
“It was definitely controversial,” she told Variety. “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.”
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The crew went back and forth about whether the scene was essential, but in the end decided the contrast was important for it to work.
Producer Christopher Miller explained, “It’s the naïveté of the kids that makes it OK. It’s what makes it so tense and funny. It doesn’t work if they’re teenagers. It has to be that age where you don’t know anything, but you want to pretend like you do.”
In fact, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley was on-board with how extreme the film took its premise, saying that anything less wouldn’t have delivered.
“You know, it’s a caper and a romp. It’s really designed to be that and nothing more. It didn’t really occur to us to politicize it at all,” she said, adding that it had to be so audacious that audiences couldn’t ignore it.
It was a perfect fit for as bold of a director as Banks, who was equally insistent on keeping the risqué name “Cocaine Bear”.
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“I lived through ‘Zach and Miri Make a Porno,’ and the title was a problem,” she recalled. “But I think ‘Zach 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.”
“Cocaine Bear” arrives in theatres on Feb. 24.