All of the traditional TV networks turned the Duffer brothers down when they pitched Stranger Things, because they didn’t think that the odd combination of a nostalgic ‘80s setting and a cast of children and adult content and a science fiction story would reach a mainstream audience and connect with the necessary millions of people to justify the production costs. But boy, were they wrong! Thankfully, Netflix had a little faith, because everyone loves the show now. We’re all waiting for the next season! In the meantime, here are 10 strange things about everyone’s favorite Netflix original series, Stranger Things.
10. Millie Bobby Brown considers herself to be “the opposite” of Eleven
When Stranger Things first premiered on Netflix, viewers and critics immediately fell in love with the character of Eleven. She’s awesome! She’s softly spoken, with only an estimated 48 lines in the entire first season of the show, but actions speak louder than words – and Eleven is able to move things around and blow things up and make people wet themselves with her mind, at the expense of only a nosebleed. The actress who plays her, Millie Bobby Brown, became an international superstar overnight. But how similar to Eleven is she? In an interview with fellow child star and current grown up star Drew Barrymore (whose character in the movie Firestarter was, funnily enough, the entire inspiration behind Eleven’s character), Brown was asked if she’s anything like her character in real life, and much to everyone’s shock, the surprisingly warm and bubbly star said, “She’s the opposite of me! I’m crazy and very loud. That’s why I love her so much, because I get to play a different person as soon as they call action!” So, if Eleven frightens you or intimidates you at all, don’t worry, because it’s all just pretend. It just means that Millie Bobby Brown is a fantastic actor.
9. Stranger Things will end after season 4
The seasons of Stranger Things aren’t really seasons. The Duffer brothers see them more as long movies that have been cut up into eight or nine pieces. This is not far from the truth, since they each tell a complete and serialized storyline, end with a satisfying conclusion, and get binged in one sitting by most of their audience. This is why, for the second season of Stranger Things, the Duffer brothers decided that they would treat it as the sequel to the first season, rather than the next season of a TV show. So, they called it Stranger Things 2. The title Even Stranger Things must not have occurred to them, or maybe that titling system just didn’t have the longevity for further seasons. But as it turns out, there won’t be many further seasons, since the brothers plan to call it quits after four. We’re already halfway to the end! Ross Duffer has said, “We’re thinking it will be a four season thing and then out.” According to his brother Matt, who elaborated, this is because they don’t want the show to become repetitive or predictable – or for it to become unlikely that a wacky supernatural occurrence besets the same small town every year. “We just have to keep adjusting the story,” he said, “though I don’t know if we can justify something bad happening to them once a year.”
8. It’s full of Stephen King references
Stranger Things was born out of the Duffer brothers getting turned down for the big screen adaptation of the Stephen King novel It. Instead, they wrote their own story about a bunch of kids who investigate supernatural goings-on in their small town and rammed it full of Easter eggs to King’s fiction. When the first season of Stranger Things was released on Netflix and literary master of the horror genre Stephen King binged it like the rest of us, he tweeted that it felt like “watching Steve King’s Greatest Hits.” But then he added, “I mean that in a good way.” The Easter eggs and hidden references to Stephen King’s work are endless. For starters, the title font is taken from the cover of every Stephen King novel ever – and the title itself was chosen due to its similarity with Needful Things. The kids walking down a railroad is an homage to Stand By Me, an iconic coming of age movie based on a Stephen King short story about kids walking down a railroad (to see a dead body). Eleven’s nosebleeds and the fact that the government is pursuing her in order to weaponize her are directly taken from Firestarter. In one episode, a security guard is literally reading Cujo.
7. Finding Nemo’s Andrew Stanton directed some episodes
At the end of the opening title sequence of every episode of Stranger Things, the name of the episode’s director comes on. In that moment during a couple of episodes in the second season of the show, you may have recognized the name of the director. “Dig Dug” and “The Spy,” the fifth and sixth episodes of the season, were helmed by Andrew Stanton, who is better known for helming the Pixar classics Finding Nemo, Finding Dory, and WALL-E. He also worked as a writer on just about every other Pixar movie. You’d think that with those credentials, the Stranger Things producers would have to beg him to take on some of their episodes, but apparently, it was his idea! The show’s executive producer Shawn Levy said that Stanton called him up and told him, “I love [Stranger Things]. I would be honored to be part of it.” The always humble Stanton said the sniffy Netflix executives, in his words, were like, “Really? The fish guy? The guy that made the big box office bomb?” and was extremely grateful when the Duffer brothers “took a risk” by letting him direct some episodes. Turns out, they’re huge fan of Stanton’s failed movie John Carter! So, Stanton was humble and worried that they wouldn’t take him. But at a certain point, it’s like, dude, you’re Andrew Stanton – everyone loves your movies! People want to work with you!
6. Stranger Things was originally called Montauk
In the original pitching stages of Stranger Things, it was a much different show. It wasn’t set in Indiana and the characters weren’t the same as we know them today (see below for an interesting tidbit about our good friend Steve Harrington’s original form) and it wasn’t even called Stranger Things. It was called Montauk, due to the fact that it was set on Long Island. In the Duffer brothers’ initial pitch document for the show that they set out to more than twenty TV networks who all rejected it, they wrote, “Montauk is an eight-hour sci-fi horror epic. Set in Long Island in 1980 and inspired by the supernatural classics of that era, we explore the crossroads where the ordinary meet the extraordinary…emotional, cinematic and rooted in character, Montauk is a love letter to the golden age of Steven Spielberg and Stephen King – a marriage of human drama and supernatural fear.” The show finally landed at Netflix, and the streaming service’s content boss Ted Sarandos loved everything about it – except the title. He wanted them to change the title. According to Matt Duffer, after a number of “heated arguments” about what the new title of the show should be, they settled on Stranger Things, purely because it “sort of sounds like Needful Things – it sounded like it could have been a Stephen King book from the ‘80s.”
5. When Winona Ryder got the role, she didn’t know what streaming was
Winona Ryder and David Harbour were the first two actors to be cast in their roles as Joyce Byers and Jim Hopper, respectively. One fun little behind the scenes gossip item is that during the actual ‘80s (not the one populated by demogorgons from the Upside Down), when Winona Ryder was a huge teen star, a young, ambitious David Harbour had a crush on her! Anyway, that’s not what we’re here to talk about. The really interesting and ironic thing is that according to executive producer Shawn Levy, who pitched the series to Ryder and offered her the role of Joyce in the show over a long dinner meeting, she was not familiar with the concept of streaming. She had never heard of it. The idea was totally alien to her. Levy laughed, “She didn’t even know what streaming was!” when promoting the first season of the show. But ever since the long forgotten star’s name was mentioned by casting director Carmen Cuba, they wanted her for the part. He went on to say, “She barely knew what a TV series was – she had never done one.” But to be fair, most people have never starred in a TV show and they still know what one is. That’s pretty common knowledge.
4. There’s a fan theory that Jean-Ralphio from Parks and Rec is Steve’s son
As soon as the first season of Stranger Things was released, a lot of viewers noticed a stunning resemblance between Steve Harrington and a certain other TV character – Jean-Ralphio Saperstein from Parks and Recreation! Even if you didn’t notice that, the second someone tells you, you can’t unsee it. They have the same eyes and nose and mouth and hair – they’re basically identical! Fans immediately started tweeting about it, saying, “We can all agree that Steve Harrington looks way too much like Jean-Ralphio, right?” and “Steve in Stranger Things has a strong resemblance to Jean-Ralphio, am I wrong?” and “His hair gets more and more Jean-Ralphio the further the episodes go, it’s amazing,” and things of that nature. In response to this, the actors who play the two characters – Joe Keery and Ben Schwartz – met up for a crazy internet stunt that had everyone who loves both shows freaking out. But it doesn’t stop there. There’s actually a fan theory that, since Steve is a kid in Indiana in the ‘80s and Jean-Ralphio is a young hipster in Indiana in the present day, Steve is Jean-Ralphio’s father. But let’s not forget that we met Jean-Ralphio’s father in Parks and Rec. He’s a doctor played by Henry Winkler. So, for this theory to be true, Steve Harrington would’ve had to go to medical school, move to Pawnee, and change his name to Len Saperstein. Do you see any of that happening?
3. Stranger Things was based on the 2013 movie Prisoners
Do you remember the movie Prisoners? It didn’t make a huge splash, but it was enjoyed by critics and it did pretty well at the box office. It was sort of a precursor to Gone Girl. It was released in 2013, one year before David Fincher’s dark psychological blockbuster, and it was a similarly epic and sweeping take on the story of a missing person. In Gone Girl, it’s a grown woman who goes missing, but in Prisoners, it’s two little girls. So, it’s a much different story. It’s the story of Hugh Jackman’s character, the father of one of the girls, who will stop at nothing until he gets his daughter back, even going as far as torturing a mentally disabled kid. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Matt Duffer said that after watching Prisoners, he and his brother thought to themselves, “Wouldn’t that movie have been even better in eight hours on HBO or Netflix?” And that’s what got them started on the path to crafting a story about a missing kid. Plus, they had this other idea about a monster that was created during the “bizarre experiments we had read about taking place in the Cold War.” The brothers say that they thought this combination was “the best thing ever.” Thus, Stranger Things was born.
2. The fan response to Barb’s death informed season 2
A lot of the plot of season 2 revolves around Nancy’s investigation into Barb’s death. That wasn’t originally going to be explored in the second season, but the Duffer brothers were swayed by the intense fan response to the way Barb’s death was handled. Season 1 didn’t even really make it clear that Barb had died. The two showrunners had to make a public statement to confirm that she had in fact been killed off the show. In anticipation of the release of season 2, the brothers said that while they would not be “resurrecting Barb,” they would address the #JusticeForBarb thing that some pro-Barb fans had started on social media. They added that they found the strong response by fans to Barb’s character to be “really surprising,” and said that they would be bringing in “some of the stuff that fans had been asking for” in season 2. So, that’s why we got that storyline in the second season of the show. Nancy’s frustration with everyone in season 2 at how quickly they seem to have forgotten that Barb died was intended to reflect a lot of the show’s fans’ frustration with the writers that they brushed over her death in a heartbeat (no mortality pun intended).
1. In the original script, Steve Harrington raped Nancy
When TV shows are in their earliest stages of development and the script is still being hammered out and the roles are still being cast, a lot of things about the characters can change. This happened in a quite significant way for the character of Steve Harrington, who was described in the original script as the “biggest douchebag on the planet.” In the original version of the pilot episode, Steve was apparently going to rape Nancy. He was going to be a truly horrific and menacing piece of work. At least that’s how the Duffer brothers envisioned him when they were still in the writing process and everything was still in the drawing board. But of course, things change, and in this case, it was thanks to the actor. When the Duffers cast Joe Keery in the role and found him to be a lot more likable and charming than they ever imagined Steve being, they decided to water down some of the darker and douchier aspects of his characterization, and what we were left with was the entitled jock who ends up getting redemption with some genuinely heartfelt and selfless actions. So, he’s still kind of a douche, but at least he’s not a rapist.