Ray Liotta Had a Final Message for Elizabeth Banks One Week Before He Died

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Ray Liotta’s legacy is one of unforgettable talent, perseverance, and good energy. When the Goodfella’s actor unexpectedly passed away in his sleep last May, friends, family, and colleagues were shocked. He was still working on one of his final films, Cocaine Bear, and seemed far too young to leave this earth. But director Elizabeth Banks has an endearing story about his final message to her, just one week before he died.

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Elizabeth Banks’ Cocaine Bear Is “On a Rampage for Blow and Blood”

Elizabeth Banks was first known for her acting in productions such as The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Zack and Miri, Hunger Games, and 30 Rock. But she’s also been producing and directing films since 2009. Her latest project, Cocaine Bear, is an action horror comedy loosely based on a true story.

Cokey the Bear was a black bear who overdosed on cocaine that drug smugglers dropped in Tennessee in 1985. He was found dead in the Chattahoochee National Forest of Georgia after overdosing on cocaine. According to reports, the bear’s stomach was “literally packed to the brim with cocaine,” although only about 3 or 4 grams were found in its bloodstream at the time of his death.

Elizabeth Banks’ movie Cocaine Bear takes this story to a whole new level. After a black bear ingests an entire duffel bag full of cocaine, he goes on a terrifying and deadly rampage in rural Georgia, destroying everyone in his path. Banks utilizes a cast of diverse characters, including criminals, locals, and hikers with unique personality traits. All must try to survive the bear’s wrath but there is gore. Lots of gore. And humor, which makes the film a must-see. So far, Cocaine Bear has been crushing the box office with mostly raving reviews considering how bizarre it is.

No Animals Were Harmed in the Making of Cocaine Bear

“I loved the script! I’m an actor first. And there were so many great characters in this film,” Banks told ET Online. “There’s so much going on besides the bear… 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.”

One of those characters is the iconic Ray Liotta. He plays a man named Syd who, like all the other humans in the film, convinces the audience that he’s interacting with a drugged-up bear. Except, there actually was no bear. It was all just very convincing CGI.

“Was there ever at any point a real bear on set?” asked Fandango correspondent Nez Perez.

“No, but I’m so happy to hear you ask that question because it means we did a really good job creating a bear out of CGI,” Banks admitted. “No real bears, no real animals on set: No animals were harmed in the making of the movie. Or used or every contemplated. Maybe some bees that we had to catch, but that was about it.”

Meanwhile, nobody could have ever foreseen that one of the film’s most important actors, Ray Liotta, wouldn’t get to see the film’s finished product. But he did, by some chance or grace, get to see the bear. It was May 18, only 8 days before he died.

Ray Liotta’s Final Message to Elizabeth Banks: He Loved the Film

“[Ray Liotta] never saw the final movie, but he did see all of his scenes,” Elizabeth Banks told ET Online. “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.”

Banks explained that Liotta had come into the studio to re-record audio. It’s a common practice in film and TV, as sometimes the microphone doesn’t quite pick up on everything, or sometimes creative directors think a different tone or way of saying a line would be better than the original.

“He came in for ADR eight days before he passed away, actually, and he loved it,” said Banks. “He was so happy, he was laughing… It was just delightful.”

Ray Liotta Was Loving His Life in Ireland While Working on Cocaine Bear

Speaking with Fandango, the director reiterated how warm and uplifting Liotta was.

“I loved working with him. He was fantastic, he came so joyfully to set every day,” said Banks. “He was so game for this project. I really felt like, he’s so charming, and he has a real mischievousness about him. And I felt like that little twinkle, that’s what this character needed. And he brought that in spades.”

“He really loved working in Ireland,” Banks continued. “He lived in this beautiful little town. And my favorite memory of him is actually of him walking arm-in-arm with his fiancée Jacy down the street after a dinner, laughing. I saw them through a window. And in my mind’s eye, when I think of Ray, that’s what I picture.”

Liotta’s Origin Story is Straight Out of a Hollywood Screenplay

Ray Liotta was born on December 18, 1954, in Newark, New Jersey. He was abandoned at an orphanage and adopted at 6-months-old by Alfred Liotta and Mary Edgar. Liotta has an adopted sister, Linda. After a lifelong search, he found his biological mother in 2000, also discovering that he had a biological sister and 6 half-siblings.

Liotta graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1978. A seasoned university thespian, he moved to New York City to try his chances in film and television. While working as a bartender, he was quick to land an agent and landed a 4-year-long recurring role in the soap opera Another World.

Ray Liotta Was Posthumously Honored as an Icon on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Liotta landed a role in the 1986 crime rom-com Something Wild starring Jeff Daniels. His performance led to a Golden Globe nomination and Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor. In 1998, he received a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Actor in The Rat Pack. He won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in ER: Time of Death in 2005. Other notable films that Liotta is known for include Goodfellas (1990), Hannibal (2001) and Field of Dreams (1989). He was posthumously honored on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 24, 2023. His daughter, Karsen Liotta (24), stood in his place at the ceremony.

The actor died in his sleep at the age of 67 while filming Dangerous Waters in the Dominican Republic. Miraculously, Liotta had made time to revisit the Cocaine Bear studio despite his busy work schedule. In addition to Dangerous Waters, Liotta will also appear in the forthcoming films April 29, 1992, and Fool’s Paradise.  

Cocaine Bear was released on February 24, the same day that Liotta received his posthumous Hollywood Star. The movie is currently in theaters and is expected to be available for streaming by June 24 on Peacock. It is also available for pre-order for $24.99 on Vudu Fandango.

Read More: Ray Liotta’s Fiancée Pays Tribute to Late Actor In The Sweetest Way

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