The Columbus Dispatch
Ray Liotta’s film ‘family’ recalls ‘Bear’ co-star
Growing up in Southern California, Alden Ehrenreich lived a few blocks away from Ray Liotta and would see the iconic “Goodfellas” star around town. So you can imagine the kick Ehrenreich got out of playing his son in a movie decades later – a movie co-starring a cokedup bear, no less.
“It was nice to kind of talk about that,” Ehrenreich, 33, says of Liotta, who had one of his final roles in their dark comedy “Cocaine Bear” (in theaters now). “He was really sweet. The opportunity to work with him was really special and now I’m even more grateful for it.”
Liotta died in his sleep last May while in the Dominican Republic filming the movie “Dangerous Waters.” The 67year-old actor, who brought a baseball legend back to life in “Field of Dreams” and became famous for his gangster and tough-guy roles, had just finished his work in “Cocaine Bear” as Syd, a St. Louis drug kingpin who travels to Georgia to repossess a bunch of missing Colombian coke found by a hungry black bear.
In an interview with Newsweek in 2021, Liotta called the film “kind of nutty.” He also loved the title: “I go, ‘Cocaine Bear? What the fudge?’ ”
Director Elizabeth Banks tells USA TODAY that she saw Liotta eight days before he died when he came in to record dialogue during post-production. He told Banks about venturing to the Dominican Republic for his new film and his summer travel plans, and he got to see the computer-generated Cocaine Bear for the first time.
“We had a great hug and he was really proud of the movie. He laughed at what it had become,” Banks says. “That’s how I’m remembering Ray: I’m picturing him holding me in a hug.”
Banks also reports that Liotta “loved” Ehrenreich, whose character Eddie wants out of the family drug business. “That was one of my favorite things. He came up to me and was like, ‘That kid’s good,’ which I was very happy about.”
Ehrenreich was excited to just do a couple of scenes with Liotta. “I grew up watching him, but you get this firsthand experience of the feeling that comes off onscreen. He was so powerful,” says Ehrenreich, whose mom was pregnant when she saw “Field of Dreams” and liked the name of the film’s director, Phil Alden Robinson, for her baby boy.
For “Cocaine Bear” screenwriter Jimmy Warden, having Liotta cast as Syd was “just surreal,” he says. “First, I don’t believe them. It doesn’t really set in. The deal’s closed and I’m like, ‘Yeah, maybe.’
And then he shows up: Let’s put him in this insane wig and he’s looking after this kid in a ball pit, like a fun-zone type of atmosphere. And he’s so down and such a hard worker.”
Liotta’s energy was contagious for his co-workers, Warden adds. By the time filming wrapped, he saw them as “his family. It was crazy. It’s extremely sad, but I also feel really lucky to have been a small part in such an insanely amazing career.”