Cocaine Bear Director Elizabeth Banks Had To Break The News Of Ray Liotta's Death To His Co-Stars

When Elizabeth Banks boarded "Cocaine Bear" as its director back in March 2021, it certainly got people talking. The character-driven thriller, which was inspired by a true story and produced by "The LEGO Movie" filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller, continued to turn heads as more details and a trailer finally arrived for the highly anticipated feature. However, following the death of Ray Liotta in May 2022, the conversation shifted slightly as this would be one of the legendary actor's final appearances on the big screen.

Primarily known for his breakout performance in "Goodfellas," Liotta went on to appear in a number of intense roles throughout his career. Prior to his passing at the age of 67, he was even experiencing a bit of career resurgence thanks to roles in "No Sudden Move" and "The Many Saints of Newark." But he wasn't afraid to have a little fun as well by branching out beyond intense dramas, as seen in movies like "Field of Dreams," "Operation Dumbo Drop," and "Muppets Most Wanted." So to hear that he was playing a hardened drug kingpin trying to get his product back from a bear seemed like the perfect role to balance both sides of this complex and extremely talented individual.

Unfortunately for Banks, it was her duty as the director of the movie to inform Liotta's co-stars of his death when the sad news broke — and just as they were putting the finishing touches on the project, no less.

Remembering Ray Liotta

In the latest issue of Total Film, Elizabeth Banks recounted the day when she informed the "Cocaine Bear" cast of Ray Liotta's passing. The filmmaker revealed that they were doing ADR work on the movie when they found out the shocking news and was especially taken by surprise because she "had just seen him a week before [and he] was so vibrant, and full of plans." But amidst the heart-breaking loss, Banks shared some fond memories of her fallen colleague:

"Ray brought so much talent, humanity and warmth to everything that he did. He totally got the tone, and he was game. He was so much fun to work with. He also really loved being in Ireland. He'd found out recently that he's actually mostly Irish, which he didn't know. Many people associate him with Italians. He gave an incredible speech when he wrapped that had some of our crew members in tears. We were just all very moved by his joyfulness."

Liotta has three other projects in the pipeline that are set to be released posthumously. First, there's Charlie Day's directorial debut (formerly "El Tonto") starring Ken Jeong, Kate Beckinsale, Adrien Brody, John Malkovich, and Jason Sudeikis. There's also "April 29, 1992," Ariel Vromen's thriller about a man and his son who're in the middle of a heist when the Rodney King verdict is revealed. And finally, there's "Dangerous Waters," the movie Liotta was shooting in the Dominican Republic when he died. It's currently uncertain just how far into production the latter two films are, but based on an interview with /Film's Danielle Ryan, Day's movie is in the can and almost ready to go.

But until we know the final fate of those movies, fans can catch Ray Liotta in "Cocaine Bear" in theaters on February 24, 2023.