‘Cocaine Bear’: O’Shea Jackson Jr on starring in 2023’s wildest movie

O'Shea Jackson (right) in Cocaine Bear
O'Shea Jackson (right) in Cocaine Bear

As Cocaine Bear hits cinemas tomorrow, star O’Shea Jackson Jr has opened up on his experience starring in one of 2023’s wildest and most anticipated movies.

Directed by Elizabeth Banks, the film takes loose inspiration from the true story of the titular American black bear that ingested a duffel bag full of cocaine in the wilds of Tennessee back in 1985.

Loose inspiration, admittedly, is very much the key word here. In Banks’ film, the bear ingests a duffel bag full of the white stuff after it falls from a plane. The beast then proceeds to go on a murderous rampage, waging bloody war against anyone in its sights. In real life, the ursine coke fiend was found dead several months later, but didn’t kill a single soul.

In this far more entertaining fictional account of events, O’Shea plays Daveed – a drug runner tasked with going into the wilds to retrieve the precious cargo. You can check out our whole interview with the man in question below.

Hi, O’Shea! Cocaine Bear, as the title suggests, is quite the film isn’t it…

Yeah! My character gets banged up a little bit in this film and I loved that part of it, but then I have to remind myself that a lot of people came out of it a whole lot worse…

That’s true. How did you come to get involved in the project?

Firstly, I’ve been a fan of [director] Elizabeth Banks forever. I ran into her before at an awards show when Straight Outta Compton was on its Oscars run and, you know, I just let her know I was a big fan. Years later I saw on Twitter that she’d got the rights to Cocaine Bear and I remember retweeting the article, basically saying how excited I was to watch it. She saw the tweet and was just like let’s get him on board. The rest is history. Shout out to the blue bird app!

Your character’s journey in the film is intrinsically linked with the late, great Ray Liotta. What was it like working with him on one of his final films?

It was really cool. You know, I take everything that I see or get to do in this business with a smile on my face because I wanted to be a writer, you know. I had no dreams of acting or anything like that, so I kinda just took on this life and told myself I was gonna give it everything I could. But man, I’ve been blessed to work with some amazing people. My favourite moments with Ray were off camera, just the things like making him laughing while we were talking, swapping stories. Those are the things that connect you to a person. I would’ve been shocked as a fan at his passing, but you know, now that I knew the man a little bit, it stings a little bit more. It’s a great shame that he never got to see the finished film because he’s so good in it.

Another thing that struck me about the film is the amount of warmth and strong characters. There’s a lot more to it than the trailer suggests.

Yeah, and that kind of works as the X Factor for it. The thing that makes a good film great. You know, the piece that you weren’t expecting, is the way I like to describe. It’s like the icing on the cake, which for us is a bag of cocaine! But once you cut into it, you realise there’s a lot of good characters and the inside is just as good as the out.

Unexpectedly, it also felt like a Richard Donner film too in some ways. Part The Goonies and part Lethal Weapon.

Well you know, our film is set in the eighties and that’s what the eighties will do to you! My first film was based in the eighties and onward, so I’m well versed in that time and we made sure that we could fit in any possible references to the era. Air Jordans for example, I got myself a couple of those from the shoot!

What was it like shooting the film in Ireland?

I loved Ireland. I loved it, it’s a beautiful place. Even when it rained it still had a mystique to it, and I really dug that everyone in customs got a kick out of my name being O’Shea, even if I don’t have any Irish in me! I met some great people too, not just on our crew but in Dublin too. I had a personal trainer called Paul Byrne, who was one of the kindest people that I’ve ever met. We stayed in Dalkey and I’ve been chasing a good pint of Guinness since we left. Ireland will always have a place in my heart and I’d love to go back.

Has your dad [a little known rapper called Ice Cube] seen the film yet?

No, but he loved the idea and thought it was hilarious. He always told me never to do a movie you wouldn’t want to go and see, and that’s why I’ve done this film. I just can’t wait to watch it at the premiere with a full crowd and enjoy Cocaine Bear alongside the rest of the world.