The tone of “Cocaine Bear” is unique. It’s definitely a balance between horror and comedy. It knows what type of movie it is, if that makes sense. When you first saw the script, what attracted you to it? And once you were in production, was there any touchstone you had to make sure you kept that tonal balance right?
Miller: We were intrigued right when [writer Jimmy Warden], who had been a PA on “21 Jump Street,” gave us the script titled “Cocaine Bear.” First, very intriguing title, and knowing it’s a true story, or at least inspired by a true story, was exciting. But you really didn’t know what you’re going to get when you opened page one. Is this going to be silly? Is it going to be dark? And the tone in the script fit a nice balance where it didn’t feel too schlocky or too winking. It took itself seriously. It was a real movie. But it also knew what it was, and that is a lot of fun, and was balancing gore and laughs, but keeping the world real and not turning it into a parody of a movie. So that was our north star.
And [director Elizabeth Banks] immediately got the tone exactly. She knew exactly what it was and what it wasn’t. And when it came to casting, when it came to setting up the action sequences, all along the way, it was very clear what was this movie and what it wasn’t. And it’s great when everybody’s rowing in the same direction, because then you don’t have one person trying to make one kind of movie, and another person trying making another kind of movie. So we were all in great concert knowing the very unique and special tone this movie has.
Were there any specific scenes where you were veering one way or the other and you had to course correct? How did you know when that was happening?
Miller: Well, often when it was in development we were like, “Well, what if Cokey” — that’s what we would call the bear —”did this?” And we’re like, “Ah, that seems a little too schlocky or just silly for silly’s sake.” Or when we were talking about casting, picking actors like Keri [Russell], and Margo [Martindale], and Alden [Ehrenreich], who are all really good dramatic actors as well as funny people who are in on the joke. There were moments where people were like, “What about this person for casting?” And we’d go, “I think it would tend too much towards a parody movie than a real film.” But it was a really great experience having everybody going for the same thing.
Lord: I think it’s about just saying lines like, “Cocaine Bear is back!” with absolute conviction, which they did really well.