Cocaine Bear Director Elizabeth Banks 'Loved' Working On James Gunn's Horror Movie Slither

"Cocaine Bear" director Elizabeth Banks has had one wild ride of a career, starring in everything from "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" to "The Hunger Games," but one of her early career standouts is her role as schoolteacher Starla Grant in James Gunn's "Slither." Starla is a small town girl from the fictional hamlet of Wheelsy, South Carolina, pining for her high school sweetheart, local sheriff Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion) while married to the only rich guy in town, Grant Grant (Michael Rooker). Things get weird when Grant becomes the host for an alien parasite that wants to take over all of Earth, but it still has feelings for Starla. Like Fay Wray and King Kong, Banks must play beauty to a terrifying beast. "Slither" is one seriously gross movie, with slimy slugs, tentacles, exploding people, and more, but it turns out that was a big part of the fun for Banks.

In an interview in the March 2023 issue of SFX magazine, Banks shared that she absolutely loved working on the gross and gory set of "Slither," and that she wishes she got to play in that weird world of filmmaking a whole lot more. Thankfully she gets to be bold and biting with her latest directorial effort, "Cocaine Bear," in theaters February 24, 2023. Hopefully things go well for Banks and Cokey and she gets to direct some silly splatter sometime soon.

Gettin' gross with Gunn

Elizabeth Banks explained that she loved making "Slither," but hasn't always gotten the chance to make good, gory fun:

"I loved making 'Slither' and I've always wanted to make more of those kinds of movies. And a part of me thought that this was a real opportunity to show that women, especially, are interested in this type of stuff. I think there's a mythology out there that women don't want to necessarily do a lot of CGI, or don't work in horror. I found ['Candy Land'] and 'Nanny,' and a couple of these really cool movies were breaking down those ideas, and this was a chance for me to do the same thing. Plus I was like, 'Nobody will believe this is an Elizabeth Banks movie.'"

"Candy Land" is a 2023 horror film about an abandoned cult member who joins a crew of sex workers, while 2022's "Nanny" mixes West African folklore with a story of survival as an immigrant in the U.S., but both are seriously scary movies from a feminine perspective. Banks previously directed "Pitch Perfect 2" and "Charlie's Angels," but it looks like "Cocaine Bear" might finally be the right project for Banks' directorial talents and expertise. After all, the movie is about a bear who gets into a whole lot of cocaine and goes on a rampage, complete with all of the guts and gore that Banks appreciated back in her "Slither" days. Not only that, but it allowed her to pay tribute to the creatives who inspired her to make movies in the first place.

A director with impeccable taste

Early critic reactions are in for "Cocaine Bear" and it sounds like a wonderfully zany bit of ultraviolence, which makes a lot of sense given Elizabeth Banks' inspiration for the movie:

"In terms of tone overall, I looked at Sam Raimi's 'The Evil Dead,' the Coen Brothers and a lot of [Quentin] Tarantino, who takes blood and gore to an operatic, over the top nature."

The blood and gore of each of these directors is unique for its cartoonish nature, whether it's Raimi's blood cannons or the ridiculous physics of Tarantino's action scenes ("Bye Miss Laura" being a favorite), and that's exactly the kind of thing that "Cocaine Bear" could need to work. It's a chance for Banks to really shine and show off her skills in an arena she hasn't gotten to play in much outside of working with James Gunn. She's a fiercely funny feminist with a killer track record as an actor, and "Cocaine Bear" could be her shot at doing all kinds of genre fare. Maybe she and Gunn can even work together behind-the-scenes in the DC Universe, because she'd kill it directing something like "Gotham City Sirens" or "Zatanna." Just give her the chance to get gross, because it's a win-win for everyone.

To reiterate, "Cocaine Bear" attacks theaters on February 24, 2023.