In the last few years, Netflix series Stranger Things has become an international hit. Its meshing of horror, adventure, comedy and 80s nostalgia had fans hooked and spooked from the very first show.
There was something about the small town’s alternate dimension that everyone couldn’t get enough of, despite it having so many eerie twists and turns. You may think you’re addicted to the show and know everything about it, but we’re sure this list will teach you something you don’t know.
It was rejected by major networks
Stranger Things may have turned out to be a mass success, but so many major TV networks never believed in it. The Duffer brothers took their original pitch to over a dozen cable networks who were less than impressed with the script.
All of them rejected and Netflix was the last one that picked it up. Most of the networks who rejected it argued that they couldn’t center the show around four kids without making it a children’s show.
Montauk was its original name
With a mix of Steven Spielberg, Steven King and the 80s mixed into the show, the Duffer brothers wanted to come up with a title that depicted these themes.
Initially they chose the name Montauk as it was the location Jaws was set at. In addition, it was the site of the Montauk Project urban legend which was researching supernatural phenomena in the 80s. Eventually, the show was set in a fictional location so the writers had more creative freedom.
Child actors auditioned with lines from Stand By Me
For each of the child roles in Stranger Things, the Duffers auditioned over 1,000 child actors. In order for them to get in the right frame of mind for the series, the Duffers had each actor read lines from the classic Stephen King adaptation Stand By Me.
Mike, played by Finn Wolfhard, was already a big fan of 80s pop culture and filmography so he fitted the part perfectly. Dustin, played by Gaten Matarazzo was cast after the Duffers saw just a single audition tape.
David Harbour was always wanted
When casting for the role of Hopper, the Duffers had always wanted David Harbour. They believed that he had been playing villain roles for too long and wanted to give him the opportunity to have a leading role and act as the hero.
In another nod to the 80s, his character was named after a commando who is killed in the 1979 science fiction horror movie Alien. The Duffers instincts were correct and Harbour became a hit with fans.
The series got the greenlit before the script was completed
When the Duffers were trying to pitch the show to different networks, the script itself wasn’t completed, but instead they had a 20-page pitch book on ideas for the show and potential episode concepts.
When Netflix bought the whole show, they picked it up purely based on the pitch ideas with no concrete script in place. From this, many of the roles on the show were cast as they went along with the series.
Authentic in the 80s
The Duffers whole intention for Stranger Things was that it would look and feel like a nostalgic 80s show. When it came to filming, they wanted to capture this look as much as possible and include grainy footage from real 80s movies.
This grainy look was applied to each episode after being captured digitally and applied in post-production. The Duffers also wanted to use old school effects including puppetry and practical effects, using as little CGI as possible.
A kidnapping movie inspired it
When the Duffers were going through ideas for the show, one of their original concepts and inspirations was from the 2013 movie Prisoners. In the movie the father goes to extreme lengths in an attempt to retrieve his kidnapped daughter.
The Duffers explored the emotional turmoil of a parent but then came to the decision to focus on the children. Somehow, they came to find the addition of a monster worked well with the children finding their missing friend.
Eleven was based on Firestarter
It wasn’t just the Stephen King novel that inspired the show’s title font, it also inspired the character of Eleven. Firestarter was about a little girl named Charlie who gained psychic abilities from her parents who were a part of MKULTRA, the top-secret government project.
Eleven also gained her superpowers from her mother who was also involved in MKULTURA. She even got a nosebleed when she uses the powers, just like Charlie’s father in Firestarter.
A nod to X-Men
In the first episode of Stranger Things, Dustin challenges Will to a bike race with the winner receiving Dustin’s copy of X-Men issue #134. In this issue of the comic book, Jean Grey becomes the most powerful psychic being, the Dark Phoenix.
For comic fans, this was a direct nod and appreciation for Eleven’s character with the ability to open gateways to other dimensions. Similarly, they both destroyed themselves to save their friends as Eleven did in the first season of the show.
The bike chase was inspired by E.T.
In another nod to Spielberg movies, the Duffer brothers added elements of his movies into Stranger Things, one of them being the bike chase in E.T. In the Spielberg blockbuster, Elliot and his friends try to escape the federal agents to get E.T. back to the spaceship, in which the alien uses his superpowers to fly them over a roadblock.
In Stranger Things, Mike and his friends were running away from the military when Eleven helps them escape by having the cars fly over their bikes.
More hidden E.T. references
The Duffer brothers were really into bringing numerous E.T. references into Stranger Things. The candy Reese’s Pieces was said to be Will’s favorite and the same candy was heavily featured in the Spielberg movie.
Moreover, the disguise that Eleven wears to go to school with the blonde wig was a very similar outfit to the one Elliot puts on E.T. in order to disguise the alien, even though Eleven’s was much more convincing!
The second season was originally totally different
In the case that Stranger Things wasn’t picked up for a second season, the Duffers created a complete story in the first season. So when the show became a hit and Netflix extended the contract it wasn’t their first choice to continue the story and one of the ideas they had was to make Stranger Things into an anthology series.
Another one of their ideas was to do a sequel that was set around a decade later in the 90s.
Stranger Things resurrected New Coke
New Coke was released in 1985 when season 3 of Stranger Things took place. When the drink first hit stores in the 80s, consumers hated it and it sparked protests around the U.S. as well as internal lawsuits at Coca-Cola.
Three months after this, the New Coke was stopped and the original Coke was reinstated. Fast forward to present day, from the success of Stranger Things, Coca-Cola released a limited run of retro-style New Coke with Steve and Dustin featured in the commercial.
The significance of Hopper’s blue wristband
One of the easter eggs in Stranger Things that could easily have gone unnoticed was Chief Hopper’s wristband. For the majority of the first two seasons, the blue band was always seen on his wrist.
Eventually, it was revealed that this was the band his terminally ill daughter wore before she died. However, at the end of season 2, Eleven is seen wearing the band, showing that Hopper’s grief may have been let go of, after adopting Eleven.
Not a cheap show
The vision of Stranger Things and the fact it was set in the 80s with a grainy background was never going to be cheap for Netflix. As a result, the budget of the show mirrors that of a Hollywood movie.
The Duffers were quite pleased with this considering they saw the first two seasons of the show as two very long movies. In the first two seasons, the total cost of production was a huge $120 million.
It has a timeline
Unlike many other series which run until the popularity has decreased or it has come to a natural end, the Duffers always had an idea of when they wanted to end the show, and end it on a high. They stated that the show would go on for four or five seasons.
While the fourth season is a certainty, questions are still being asked surrounding the possibility of a fifth season. Only time will tell if it goes ahead.
Winona Ryder was cast due to her 80s icon status
In all aspects of Stranger Things, there are many aspects that pay homage to the 80s and have this theme running throughout. When the prospect of casting 80s icon and it-girl Winona Ryder as the part of Joyce, the Duffers were extremely excited about it.
After the idea came up, they were absolutely set on it and knew Winona would make a great addition to the show, as well as bringing her status as an 80s star with her.
The title was loosely based on Stephen King novels
When the show wasn’t going to be set in Montauk anymore, the Duffers needed a new title so went and bought an old copy of Stephen King’s novel Firestarter. They used the cover of the book to come up with different ideas and eventually settled on Stranger Things.
This was partly because another King novel was titled Needful Things and they liked the to-the-point nature of the title. However, it took them a while to definitely settle on the name.
The real name for The Upside Down
The Upside Down is a place fans are very familiar with from stranger things, but this wasn’t supposed to be the name for the eerie and mysterious place.
Millie Bobby Brown revealed that the original name for the place was the Nether, but they started calling it The Upside Down on set and the name just resonated with everyone and it stuck. The same thing happened with the Shadow Monster in season 2 and it was supposed to be the Mind Flayer.
Christmas lights were used to find the monster
In the original script, Nancy, Jonathan and Steve used the christmas lights to find the monster. However, when one of the writers came up with the idea of Joyce using them to communicate with Will instead, everyone loved it and it left an element of confusion.
The writers said “Seeing Winona react with joy, then terror, then hope to a glowing ball of Christmas lights is now one of our favorite scenes from the show.”
Harbours homage to Indiana Jones
When David Harbour was cast as Hopper, he had a specific request for the writers. He wanted his character to wear a hat to be just like Indiana Jones.
Harbour even went a step further and the Duffers explained that early on in the production, he had asked if they could have a giant boulder roll after him at one point in the series. While the Duffers were absolutely baffled, it became clear that Harbour had quite the thing for Indiana Jones.
Matthew Modine helped shape his character
When the show was first being written, there were plenty of blanks in terms of the characters and the Duffers wanted to see who was cast and how they would suit the personality.
When it came to casting Matthew Modine, the Duffers didn’t know how to write in Dr. Brenner so the actor stepped in and helped the writers shape this small role on Stranger Things. They let his character unfold more and more as the show went on.
Noah Schnapp’s mother was shocked to find her son’s fake body
A mother is fiercely protective over her son, so the Duffer’s were very brave to do this but they pulled a surprise on Schnapp’s mother. They pulled her to the side and said they had something to show her and then proceeded to take her to a closet where Noah’s terrifying fake body corpse was propped up.
After initially being totally startled, Noah’s mom took it quite well and eventually loved it, but it definitely took her a minute to get over the weirdness of the situation.
Millie Bobby Brown once turned up to set covered in glitter
With child actors, their age can easily be forgotten as they are usually very mature and grow up in a completely different way to other kids their age. However, everyone remembered Millie Bobby Brown’s real age when the young star decided to turn up head to toe covered in glitter to set.
As for the logistics of this, production was halted by half an hour as the makeup team had to work quickly to get all the glitter off her body.
The Duffers convinced Millie Bobby Brown to shave her head by using a photo of Charlize Theron
In the script, Millie’s character Eleven is described to have hair “buzzed almost to the scalp,” so when she turned up to auditions with long brown hair, the Duffers knew some convincing would have to be done.
Luckily for them, Mad Max: Fury Road was just about to be released and Charlize Theron was rocking a buzz cut in it, so they used that photo to convince Millie. When the day came to cut her hair off, Millie’s dad was said to have left in tears and he couldn’t cope with it.
Dacre Montgomery danced nude for his audition
Actors will go to great lengths to stand out in auditions and this can be said for Dacre’s audition tape for Billy Hargrove. The actor decided to dance shirtless to “Come on Eileen” in some very revealing underwear too, leaving very little to the imagination.
He said “I was thinking: Either I’m never going to work again, or somebody somewhere is going to see one thing in me, and they’ll give me a chance.” Luckily, the Duffers thought it was hilarious, but admitted it was the strangest audition they’ve ever seen.
Winona Ryder helped Schnapp with his acting
In season 2, Noah Schnapp admitted that he was struggling with some of his scenes so he decided to call in reinforcements.
He explained that he texted Winona Ryder asking for some help, adding “she came in like an hour and a half earlier than she was called in for and she brought me in her trailer and she talked to me.” The actress talked through all of his scenes and told him he would do great.
Erica Sinclair was supposed to have a small role
In the second season of Stranger Things we were introduced to Erica Sinclair, played by Priah Ferguson. The actress was only brought from a local agency in Atlanta to have a really small role on the show, but after a few scenes, the Duffers absolutely loved her.
They admitted that she wasn’t even supposed to have that many scenes in season two, let alone becoming a main character in season 3. The writers thought she would resonate with fans and ended up being a great addition.
The Duffers had to get permission from Ghostbusters director for the costumes
The Ghostbusters costumes were loved by fans and became a great addition to the TV series, but the Duffers had to get permission to use them. They had to call the movie’s director Ivan Reitman explaining “His tone was very serious.
He seemed very skeptical, and he was like, ‘Can you explain why you want to use Ghostbusters in this?’” They had to explain the importance of it and once the director heard them out, he said they were flattered by it.
The bromance almost never happened
Fans absolutely fell in love with the bromance between Dustin and Steve. After initially not liking each other, the start of a beautiful friendship began in season two when Steve unwillingly became Dustin’s babysitter.
Steve began as an older brother figure but then became his best friend. However, when the second season was pitched, there was no bromance and it only came about as they believed they were two characters who could heal each other’s broken hearts.
Sadie Sink’s height was a problem
Sink portrays Maxine “Max” Mayfield on Stranger Things, but she almost didn’t get the role. Despite the Duffers being impressed with her acting, she admitted later on that they told her she was too tall for the role.
The team that were behind the show were worried that Sink would tower over the boys and it wouldn’t look right on screen. Luckily for the young actress, the boys got their growth spurts and she got the jobs.
Viewers couldn’t get enough
Initially, when the Duffers were pitching the idea to television networks, no one wanted to pick it up, but it turned out that Netflix ended up with a complete diamond.
While Netflix believed in the show, others didn’t which was huge mistake. Viewers absolutely loved the show and the second season drew in 8.8 million views in the first three days. In the first 24 hours it was uploaded, 361,000 people watched all nine episodes.
Millie Bobby Brown was about to give up acting
Being a child actor is never an easy thing. There is so much rejection involved at such a young age, long hours and barely any structure that most kids really need in their lives.
Millie Bobby Brown admitted that this was really taking its toll on her and she wasn’t sure if she could go on living this way, hoping for her big break. She said “I felt at one point I couldn’t do it [anymore], but then I got this and everything changed.” Stranger Things saved and made her acting career.
Bob’s life span got an extension on the show
As the cameras were rolling on the show, the Duffers felt a connection with some characters that they didn’t expect to feel. This happened with Bob as he was supposed to be killed off the show in episode four of season two.
However, the Duffers admitted that they liked him so much that they decided to rewrite the script and keep him on until episode 8. It was a good move as he was also a hit with fans.
Sean Austin wanted Bob’s death to be violent
Sean Austin’s character Bob initially didn’t have as memorable a death than he ended up having on the show. This change in the script was down to the actor himself and when he saw how his character was killed off, he thought it could be better.
The Duffers explained that the actor went to them and kept talking about Jaws and Quint being ripped apart and thought something along those lines should happen. The creators eventually gave in.
Finn Wolfhard auditioned sick in bed
When it came time for Finn to send in his audition tape, he came down with the flu in some very unfortunate timing. Instead of giving up the role, nothing was going to stop the young actor so he recorded the audition in bed.
His commitment to the show was seen by producers and the casting director admitted his tape was “so out of focus” but they could still see that he was a fun and dynamic actor.
Gaten Matarazzo’s changing voice
Gaten Matarazzo started filming Stranger Things when he was in his early teens and throughout filming, it was very evident in his voice that puberty was setting in and his tone was getting deeper.
His voice actually deepened by four octaves over the first season which caused a slight problem in post production as he was unable to participate in additional dialogue recording. Now, at 17-years-old, it is hoped that his voice won’t change much more so further seasons shouldn’t have this issue.
The kids wanted to curse
In season two of the show, a few curse words slipped the tongues of some of the main young characters. When Netflix saw the clips, they requested that the curse words be removed from the script, but the young cast objected.
Eventually, Netflix allowed producers to take alternate shots which included the curse words. When the executives saw that it worked within the context, they allowed the language to be kept in and the cast got their way.
The hidden meaning behind the Poltergeist movie
When Joyce took Will to see the classic 80s horror movie Poltergeist, he disappeared right after. Ironically, in the movie a young couple’s daughter is kidnapped by ghosts and brought to another dimension.
They could only contact her through walls and eventually find a portal to reach her through. Essentially the movie mimics exactly what happens to Will in stranger things season one. Joyce is even the one who carries him through the portal.
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