Elizabeth Banks on Working with Ray Liotta on 'Cocaine Bear' Before His Death (Exclusive)

The actress and filmmaker opened up to ET at the premiere of her new action horror comedy.

Elizabeth Banks is sharing her fond memories of working with the late Ray Liotta on what would be his final film.

The actress and filmmaker walked the red carpet at the premiere of her new film, Cocaine Bear, in Los Angeles on Tuesday, and she spoke with ET's Ash Crossan about getting the chance to work with Liotta shortly before his death last May.

"He never saw the final movie, but he did see all of his scenes," Banks shared. "And he saw the bear, which is the most important thing, because the poor guy like everyone had to act with, you know, a guy in a black suit and a stuntman and just sort of hope that it looks cool."

In the high-energy action horror comedy, the titular cocaine bear -- for obvious reasons -- was created entirely with CGI, and Banks explained that Liotta came in to re-record some audio, which is when he was able to see the finished product, or at least his part.

"He came in for ADR eight days before he passed away, actually, and he loved it. He was so happy. He was laughing," Banks recalled warmly. "It was just delightful."

The film -- loosely based on a real event that occurred in 1985 -- tells the story of a black bear that unwittingly consumes a duffle bag full of cocaine, and goes on a drug-fueled rampage through rural Georgia.

Meanwhile, an eclectic group of locals, tourists and drug-smuggling criminals must team up to try to survive as the body count rises quickly.

Looking back at what attracted her to direct the project, Banks explained, "I loved the script! I'm an actor first. And there were so many great characters in this film."

"There's so much going on besides the bear," she shared. "And I hope that's what people take away from it -- that they find someone sort of relatable in the movie. I just fell in love with all the characters, truly."

As for the brutally violent nature of the crazed-animal drama, balanced with pervasive dark humor, Banks admitted, "I knew that the tone was gonna be really hard."

"And the biggest fear I had was the bear, because I've never made a movie where the star of the movie is never there," she added with a laugh. "I had to totally trust Weta [FX] to make the bear, which they did an incredible job with. I couldn't be more proud. And, you know, we all held hands and jumped into the deep end together."

The film stars Liotta -- who sadly died in his sleep on May 26, 2022, at age 67 -- alongside Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Alden Ehrenreich, O'Shea Jackson Jr., Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Margo Martindale, to name just some of the massive ensemble cast.

Cocaine Bear tears into theaters Feb. 24.



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