15 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘Stranger Things’
Stranger Things – created by Matt and Ross Duffer – is undoubtedly one of Netflix’s most successful original TV series in history. The show provides a unique blend of 1980s nostalgia, timeless science fiction, and supernatural horror, all delivered by a cast of talented and charismatic child actors along with the incredible Winona Ryder and David Harbour.
As the highly-anticipated season 2 premieres this October of 2017, Stranger Things has shown no signs of slowing down, even if the Duffer Brothers insist that the series will most likely end after season 4. Meanwhile, everyone (except for poor Barb) is back for the show’s second year: Eleven, Mike, Dustin, Lucas, Will, Nancy Wheeler, Jonathan and Joyce Byers, and Jim Hopper.
The titles of six episodes of Stranger Things’ season 2 have already been announced: “Mad Max”, “Trick Or Treat Freak”, “The Pollywog”, “Will The Wise”, “Dig Dug”, and “The Spy”. While the season will have a total of 9 episodes (one more than season 1), the titles for episodes 7, 8, and 9 are still, for now, being kept to Netflix and the Duffer Brothers themselves.
Speaking of the unknown, here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Stranger Things.
15. THE DUFFER BROTHERS ARE TWINS
There are a couple of famous siblings in Hollywood who work together and are mostly known as a singular unit. There are the Russo brothers (Anthony & Joe), responsible for the two last Captain America movies and the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War and Untitled Avengers 4. There are the Wachowski sisters (Lilly & Lana), who wrote and directed The Matrix trilogy, Sense8 and Cloud Atlas. Last but not least, there are the Coen Brothers, known for Fargo, No Country For Old Men, and Burn After Reading.
But what makes the Duffer Brothers special is that they’re not just siblings who share a passion for writing and directing and therefore work together in projects… They’re also twins! However, the duo admitted that they actually have no idea if they’re fraternal or identical.
14. IT WAS REJECTED 20 TIMES BEFORE NETFLIX
Matt and Ross Duffer actually estimate that the show was rejected about 15 to 20 times before landing on Netflix. According to the brothers, Netflix was not a possibility in their heads. They thought only solidified Hollywood names such as Orange is the New Black’s Jenji Kohan (who had previously done Weeds) and House of Cards’ David Fincher (director of Se7en, Fight Club, Gone Girl, and The Social Network) were welcomed there.
The few network executives from the standard network television world who did entertain the idea of Stranger Things wanted to turn it into a children’s show or give it a bubbly detective feel. Thankfully, the Duffer Brothers were okay with rejections and waited for Netflix to back up their vision.
13. OVER 1000 CHILD ACTORS WERE REJECTED
In an attempt to secure the roles of the four main boys in Stranger Things – Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Will – 906 child actors auditioned for Netflix and the Duffer Brothers. To find Eleven, 307 child actresses auditioned before Millie Bobby Brown was chosen.
The auditions were conducted by casting director Carmen Cuba, who was also responsible for assembling the casts in Sense8, The Martian, Magic Mike, and Looking. Cuba and the Duffer Brothers believed that it was important to conduct hundreds of auditions before being sure. During the auditions, the boys and girls were not only asked to act out scenes from the Stranger Things pilot, but also to read scenes from the movie Stand By Me.
As the child actors were narrowed down, a select few were flown to Los Angeles to read scenes together until the Duffer Brothers knew they had found the right chemistry in a set of four boys and one girl.
12. MILLIE BOBBY BROWN WAS NOTICED BY STEPHEN KING BEFORE STRANGER THINGS
It’s no secret that Stranger Things is heavily inspired by the 1980s, and more specifically by the works of Steven Spielberg and Stephen King. The Duffer Brothers are huge fans of Spielberg and King, and several references to those storytelling legends are made in the show.
So it’s actually kind of interesting that two years before Stranger Things even premiered on Netflix, Stephen King, a hero to the Duffer Brothers, was already praising Millie Bobby Brown for her work on Intruders. In a 2014 tweet, the author wrote: “Millie Brown, the girl in INTRUDERS, is terrific. Is it my imagination, or are child actors a lot better than they used to be?”
Millie Bobby Brown might’ve achieved legendary status as Stranger Things’ Eleven, but it seems like her genre cred was always high even before the show began.
11. DEMOGORGON IS FROM MONSTEROPOLIS?
It is no secret that everyone is scared by the Demogorgon, but at the end of the day, the production team behind Stranger Thingsstill needed for the toddler actors in the cast to be in certain scenes and behave well alongside this giant and frightening monster right next to them.
So what convinced the toddler actors in the show to be less scared? Well, the Stranger Things production team convinced the children that the Demogorgon was not actually all that bad, and that it had come from Monsteropolis, the fictional city from Pixar’s Monster, Inc. where monsters scare kids in exchange for electricity, but are ultimately not that scary in real life.
While it’s funny to think of the Demogorgon as a character like Sully or Mike Wazowski, it certainly got the toddler actors to do their job without being traumatized for life. Thanks, Disney and Pixar!
10. FINN WOLFHARD ALMOST MISSED OUT ON STRANGER THINGS DUE TO IT (2017)
Besides Stephen King’s praise to Millie Bobby Brown, there’s yet another completely accidental parallel between Stranger Things and the author. Before the show was even a reality, Finn Wolfhard, who plays Mike, was already signed to portray Richie Tozier in the 2017 adaptation of It.
As a matter of fact, Finn almost had to give up on his Stranger Things role due to his prior commitment to It, since there would be a scheduling conflict between both projects. However, because of production delays in the movie’s production, the actor was able to make arrangements and do both.
Aside from these two very prominent roles in very successful projects, Finn Wolfhard had also been featured in the past on The CW television series Supernatural and The 100.
9. E.T. + FURIOSA = ELEVEN
Eleven is arguably the most iconic character in all of Stranger Things, and a huge part of that achievement is due to Millie Bobby Brown’s stellar performance as the mysterious girl.
According to multiple sources from the show’s production team, Millie Bobby Brown’s performance was meant to resemble E.T. in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial – a likable, funny, and out-of-place character trying to make sense of the world. To bring Eleven some edge, it was decided that she would have a shaved head in order to look like Mad Max: Fury Road’s Furiosa. Most notably, Millie Bobby Brown fully embraced that decision by actually shaving her head instead of relying on Hollywood magic.
Eleven’s future is still unsure, and many have questioned whether she will return for Stranger Things’ third season. For now, we should all be celebrating the incredible character Millie Bobby Brown has brought to life on Netflix.
8. A SECRET 30-PAGE DOCUMENT EXPLAINING THE UPSIDE DOWN
In Hollywood, it is commonplace for creators to develop “Story Bibles” with thorough descriptions of fictional places, characters, civilizations, and whatever else a TV show or movie relies on. So it’s only natural that before the first season of Stranger Things even premiered, the Duffer Brothers already had a 30-page document thoroughly explaining the Upside Down so that they had a clear sense of how that place actually works.
The Duffer Brothers have revealed that they were not worried about showing too much of the Upside Down during season 1, and that more details of that 30-page document would be organically revealed if the show made it to a second season and beyond.
It seems like the brothers don’t want to sacrifice storytelling for the sake of explaining things, however, and that audiences will only see the Upside Down from the perspective of the Stranger Things characters.
7. CALEB AND GATEN ARE KINGS OF BROADWAY
Stranger Things season 1 required absolutely no singing onanyone’s part, but if it ever comes to it, certain members of the show’s cast are definitely known for also having musical talents.
As if an overwhelming amount of charisma and acting chops weren’t already enough, child actors Gaten Matarazzo (who plays Dustin) and Caleb McLaughlin (who plays Lucas) have both acted in music-related roles before Stranger Things. Gaten started his Broadway career portraying Benjamin in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and then proceeded to play Gavroche 2014’s Broadway revival of Les Misérables. Caleb played the young version of Simba in Broadway’s The Lion King between 2012 and 2014, and in 2017, he portrayed R&B singer Rick Bell in BET’s The New Edition Story miniseries.
Most recently, Gaten Matarazzo was also featured in Katy Perry’s music video for “Swish Swish.”
6. HOW THE DEMOGORGON WAS BROUGHT TO LIFE
The monsters seen in the 1980s horror movies were all brought to life with practical effects. Special effects were costly and of awful quality back then, so the only reasonable way to bring a movie monster to life was to get someone in a costume or build an animatronic that could interact with actors.
Today, a lot can be achieved with special effects – so much so that certain filmmakers tend to rely completely on CGI, bypassing the cost of building props or animatronics that resemble a real monster that is physically present on set. In the case of the Demogorgon, however, it took a combination of CGI, prosthetics, animatronics, and an actual live-action performance to bring the monster to the screen in Stranger Things.
5. TRUE CRIME + MERYL STREEP = JOYCE
Casting director Carmen Cuba was the person who came up with the idea of approaching Winona Ryder for the role of Joyce Byers, a choice that the Duffer Brothers were certainly in agreement with.
Not only is Ryder a brilliant actress, but she was also a 1980s icon due to her performances in 1988’s Beetlejuice and Heathers. And yet, the even more interesting parts of the construction of this Stranger Things character are the inspirations behind it.
Ryder said that she was immediately drawn to the Stranger Things plot, and mentioned how she clearly remembered the story of a 12-year-old girl who had gone missing in her hometown and was later found dead. For Joyce Byers’ look, she and the production team mimicked Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Karen Silkwood in the 1983 film Silkwood.
4. THE WALKING DEAD CONNECTION
One of the highlights of Stranger Things is Holly Wheeler, Mike and Nancy’s younger sister.
Twin sisters Anniston and Tinsley Price are responsible for bringing the character of Holly to life. The practice of hiring identical twins to play toddler characters is a common practice in Hollywood, with Full House’s Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen portrayal of Michelle Tanner as a prime example from 1980s and 1990s popular culture.
But things get even more interesting when you find out that Tinsley and Anniston Price have already had a quite prominent career. Starting in 2013, the twin sisters shared the role of Judith Grimes in The Walking Dead, and then in 2016, the pair also brought to life the character of Perfexia in Allegiant.
3. STRANGER THINGS MOVIE HOMEWORK
One of the challenges during the production of Stranger Things was to properly get their wonderful cast of child actors (all under 15 years of age) to fully understand the 1980s-inspired tone that the TV show was aiming for.
A strategy applied by the Duffer Brothers and casting director Carmen Cuba was to ask the actors to audition by reading scenes from 1986’s Stand By Me, a movie that has been an ongoing inspiration for Stranger Things. Before shooting commenced, the creators also gave the cast more homework: the kids were told to watch 1982’s Poltergeistand 1985’s The Goonies.
It clearly worked. It is palpable that the Stranger Things cast of child actors truly understood the 1980s tone and fully realized the characters that they were hired to portray, bringing us nostalgia from a time long before they were even born!
2. THE SHOW WAS ORIGINALLY SET IN MONTAUK, NY
It is no secret that, aside from the Upside Down, the plot of Stranger Things is set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana. What most people don’t know, however, is that this was not always the case.
Before setting the story in this completely fictional place called Hawkins, the Duffer Brothers were actually considering placing Stranger Things on Montauk, New York – a city that inspired Jaws and serves as the location for most of the drama seen on Showtime’s The Affair. Montauk was also featured in one episode of Friends and occasionally appeared in Revenge.
As a matter of fact, the original title for Stranger Things was Montauk, and the plan had always been to place the show in a coastal city. Now that we already know and love Hawkins, it’s quite weird to consider how different things could’ve been.
1. NETFLIX BOUGHT THE SHOW 24H AFTER IT WAS PITCHED
It was not hard for Netflix to see the potential in the Duffer Brothers and Stranger Things. As a matter of fact, it only took the streaming service 24 hours to greenlight the show after it was pitched for the very first time to them.
Before Stranger Things, the Duffer Brothers had written and directed an independent film called Hidden and had writing credits in Wayward Pines, but it’s fair to say that they were not necessarily highly acknowledged professionals in the industry at that point.
Even though Netflix moves fast by television standards, it is not typical – even for them – to buy into a completely original show created by Hollywood newcomers in only 24 hours.
Netflix saw something special in Stranger Things, and that something certainly paid off.