Elizabeth Banks defends controversial 'Cocaine Bear' scene showing kids doing drugs: Testing their 'innocence'

Actress and director Elizabeth Banks defended a controversial scene depicting 12-year-olds doing cocaine in her upcoming R-rated flick "Cocaine Bear," telling Variety's Adam B. Vary in a recent interview that the scene was all about testing their "innocence."

"It was definitely controversial," she said. "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."

Christopher Miller, one of the Banks' co-producers for the film, also defended the scene, arguing that "the naïveté of the kids" 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," Miller added.

The upcoming action-comedy film, set to debut worldwide on Feb. 24, focuses on a cocaine-fueled black bear's druggy rampage in a Georgia forest and is loosely based on a real-life story of a bear discovered in The Peach State's Chattahoochee National Forest after overdosing on cocaine from a drug smuggling attempt gone wrong in September 1985.

"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," Donna Langley, chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, said of the controversial drug scene.

Though the film has received additional criticism and mockery for being off-the-wall, Langley said she "wasn’t afraid of the material," adding that today's movie marketplace thrives on being "bold and fresh and different."

"‘Cocaine Bear’ certainly checks those boxes," she said.

Banks conceded that the film could be a "career-ender" for her during the interview with Vary, calling the film a "ginormous risk."

Vary touched on Banks' ups and downs as a filmmaker, seeing successes with the "Pitch Perfect" films and flops like 2019's "Charlie's Angels," writing, "The film represents something new and potentially perilous for Banks: a chance to establish her own original filmmaking voice — and the possibility that audiences could reject it.

Langley additionally said Universal's decision to pursue the film stemmed from identifying the plot as a "bold choice" to "cut through the clutter and to make some noise."

Banks said the gory R-rated flick could be seen as the bear's "revenge story" against the drug traffickers whose botched run led to its tragic death.

The film stars the late Ray Liotta, Keri Russell, Margo Martindale, and others.

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