“Cocaine Bear” and 5 Other Movies Based on INSANE True Stories
The cast has been announced for the upcoming “Cocaine Bear”. Ray Liotta, Keri Russell and Elizabeth Banks will star in the movie version of events that actually occurred in 1985. The story goes, as reported by the New York Times, that a drug smuggler named Andrew Thornton had to dump a load of cocaine in mid-flight. Authorities searching the heavily wooded area reportedly found a 200 lb. bear, dead, with an empty duffle bag nearby and tell-tale white powder on its muzzle. It was determined that the bear had come across the duffle bag and consumed most of its contents: 70 pounds of uncut cocaine.
This isn’t the first movie to be based on insane, unlikely true events. I’m going to focus on stories that might have been reported as an oddity, but didn’t become widely known until the movie was made. So, for this article, no WWII movies or rock star bio-pics; all of these stories were originally reported as back page or “on the stranger side” stories.
1.) Operation Dumbo Drop (1995)
THE MOVIE VERSION: Green Berets (Danny Glover and Ray Liotta) have to airlift a full-grown Asian elephant to a remote Vietnamese village for an important ceremony
THE CRAZIER TRUE STORY: Green Beret John Gantt oversees a saw-mill operation in a remote Vietnamese village. They actually transported TWO elephants, by helicopter, to transport wood products for the war effort.
2.) 30 Minutes or Less (2011)
THE MOVIE VERSION: A pizza delivery boy (Jesse Eisenberg) is strapped with explosives and forced to rob a bank. The pizza boy turns the tables on the bad guys and gets away with the money.
THE CRAZIER TRUE STORY: Brian Wells, a 46 year old pizza delivery driver, entered the PNC Bank in Erie, Pennsylvania. His neck was fitted with a collar attached to two pipe bombs. He left the bank with a bag containing 8 thousand dollars (his note asked for 250 thousand). Police spotted him an arrested him. Before the bomb squad could arrive, the device detonated, killing Wells instantly.
CRAZIER STILL: Police maintain that Wells was actually in on the plot but believed the bomb to be a fake.
3.) Six Degrees of Separation (1993)
THE MOVIE: Will Smith plays a con-man named Paul who charms New York’s Upper Eastside elite…by claiming to be actor Sydney Poitier’s son.
THE CRAZIER TRUE STORY: David Hampton was a charming con-man who grifted thousands in money and gifts from wealthy Manhattanites…by claiming he was Sydney Poitier’s son. His partner in crime pretended to be the son of actor Gregory Peck. He also pretended to know the rich people’s kids from their Ivy League College. This all happened in the early 1980s…because that was before you could check someone’s story out on Facebook or Google.
CRAZIER STILL: The whole “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game is based on this story.
4.) Bernie (2011)
THE MOVIE: Jack Black plays a much-beloved mortician and choir director who befriends and then kills an 80 year-old millionaire (played by Shirley MacLainer).
THE CRAZIER TRUE STORY: Bernie Tiede, a 38 year old mortician in Carthage Texas kills his friend and financial benefactor, Marjorie Nugent. Before the murder, Tiede had been Nugent’s companion, traveling partner and had convinced her to remove her estranged son from her will and leave him her 10 million dollar fortune.
CRAZIER STILL: By all accounts, Marjorie Nugent was a mean, nasty old miser…and everyone in town really DID love Bernie Tiede. Actor Jack Black and director Richard Linklater both worked to get Tiede released. In 2015, Bernie was released on $10,000 bail on the condition that he live with Linklater in Austin.
5.) The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom (1993)
THE MOVIE: A Texas mom (played by Swoozie Kurtz) tries to hire a hitman to kill the mother of her daughter’s junior high cheerleading rival. Don’t worry, the “crazier true story” part in just as confusing.
THE CRAZIER TRUE STORY: In 1991, Wanda Holloway of Channelview, Texas, tried to hire a hitman. She wanted him to kill Verna Heath. Verna was the mother of a 14 year old, 8th grade girl who had beaten out Wanda’s daughter Shanna for a spot on the Junior High cheerleading squad. The hitman ended up getting cold feet and going to the police. Wanda was sentenced to 15 years in prison but was eventually released after serving just six months.
CRAZIER STILL: This was the second of TWO movies about this case to come out in 1993! The other one was “Willing to Kill: The Texas Cheerleader Story” in which Lesley Ann Warren played Wanda.
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