Although Netflix’s hit show Stranger Things may have always been destined for success, studios and television networks were not so enthused. Many viewers may be surprised to learn that the creators, Matt and Ross Duffer, had some difficulty getting the show made. More than 15 networks passed on the show until Netflix jumped at the opportunity, purchasing the show less than 24 hours after hearing the pitch. Here are 10 other things that you may not have known about the ’80s horror series…
10. The Creators of Stranger Things are twins
Matt and Ross Duffer were born in North Carolina, and took to filmmaking at a young age. They both moved out to Los Angeles to attend Chapman University to further their film education and get closer to the industry. After writing and directing several short films, a feature film they wrote was purchased by Warner Bros. It was eventually released in 2015, three years after its production. The Duffer Brothers’ big break came when M. Night Shyamalan read their script for the movie and hired them as writers for the TV series Wayward Pines. They have stated that their experience on Wayward Pines gave them the ability to pitch Stranger Things successfully.
The little known fact about the Duffer Brothers is that they’re twins. Even more surprising is that no one tested if they were fraternal or identical. Matt Duffer has stated that they’ve lived their lives as if they’re identical, and that testing themselves now would “mess them up psychologically.”
9. Hundreds of Kids Were Rejected
As well as the child actors have done in their starring roles on Stranger Things, it may seem like it was easy to cast those characters. The truth is that it was far from easy. One of the main difficulties in even getting the show picked up was the Duffer Brothers’ insistence that the main characters had to be children.
Once Netflix purchased the show, the auditions began, nearly 2,000 kids auditioned, including more than 300 girls trying for the role of Eleven. While that may seem excessive, it’s hard to argue with the results. One of the actors chosen, Finn Wolfhard (Mike), recorded his audition tape from his bed because he was sick. Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin, was the first actor cast in the show; the creators loved him so much, they decided to give his character the same condition that Matarazzo has in real life.
8. The Composers Were Found Online
One of the best parts of Stranger Things is its impressive soundtrack. The hypnotic electronic sound masterfully sets the tone for the story, while also adding tension and conflict throughout. Surprisingly, the composers, Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon, weren’t well known. The show’s creators actually discovered their work online, leading to Stein and Dixon submitting 12 songs to land the job.
After getting rave reviews, the Duffer Brothers convinced the composers to quit their day jobs and work on the show full time. With the show’s success, Dixon and Stein have seen an uptick in the popularity of their band, Survive.
7. The Setting was Supposed to be in Montauk, New York
It might be hard to believe, but the name of the show was originally Montauk. Filming was supposed to take place in Montauk, New York, but it became unrealistic after they realized the difficulty of shooting in New York in the winter. The seaside town was an inspiration for the setting of the film Jaws, but in the end they decided to invent the town of Hawkins, Indiana.
Production eventually moved to Atlanta, and the show gained the title Stranger Things.
6. It’s Based (…kinda) on a True Story
One of the reasons that they were originally set to shoot in Montauk was its place in secret government operations. Allegedly, the United States government based projects for developing psychological warfare in Montauk. The revelations originated with Preston Nichols, who claimed to have repressed memories of experiences dealing with mind control, contact with alien life, and a supposed fake Moon landing.
While these claims may in fact be untrue, the US government’s history of performing unethical tests on its own citizens makes stories like Nichols more believable, and helped create the basis for Stranger Things. Project MKUltra is evidence that the US government did attempt to create weapons of war like Eleven. Let’s just be grateful that these projects were not successful… at least, as far as we know.
5. Sean Astin’s Character was Supposed to Die Earlier
The iconic actor known best as Mikey from The Goonies, Rudy from… well, Rudy, and Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings was a welcome addition to season two of Stranger Things. However, the show’s creators were skeptical at first. The Duffer Brothers believed that Astin may have been too famous, particularly since his role in The Goonies was a clear inspiration for the child characters in the show. In the end, they agreed to cast him, only believing he’d have a small role. However, Astin had such a positive impact on the show that his run lasted longer than the creators expected. The Duffer Brothers initially planned for Astin’s character, Bob, to die in episode four at the hands of Will, but instead Astin lasted until nearly the end and had one of the most horrific (and heroic) deaths on the show.
The Duffer Brothers stated that Bob’s death scene was the hardest scene they had to write because of the relationship that Sean Astin had formed with the cast and crew. Although Astin didn’t want to leave the show, the Duffer Brothers knew that narratively, it was the right thing to do. According to the show’s creators, Bob’s death scene was inspired by the horrific death of Quint in the film Jaws.
4. Stephen King was a Major Influence
Alright, so you probably already knew this one, especially if you’ve actually watched the show and ever read any of King’s work. Heck, the title screen of the show uses the exact same font as King’s books.
The Duffer Brothers have acknowledged that Stephen King’s work is one of their biggest inspirations for the show. One reference in season two comes when Sean Astin’s character suggests that they should move to Maine, in homage to King’s birthplace. And it’s only fitting that he would “discover” Millie Bobby Brown. Before Brown was cast to play the role of Eleven, King tweeted that he loved her performance in the British show Intruders. It’s not hard to believe that a strong endorsement from King helped Brown land the role.
Other King references are sprinkled throughout the series. In the first season, Winona Ryder’s character asks her son, Will, if he’s still scared of clowns. A clear reference to Pennywise. And Astin’s character also makes a much more explicit reference to Pennywise in season two. The character of Eleven could also be seen as a direct homage to King’s Charlie McGee, the young female protagonist in his novel Firestarter. Both Eleven and Charlie McGee have psychic abilities and both are on the run from nefarious organizations.
3. Millie Bobby Brown’s Dad Cried When She Cut Her Hair
One of the difficult parts of casting children is knowing their limits. In order to convince Millie Bobby Brown to shave her head, the Duffer Brothers showed her pictures of Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road. When the time came, and Brown agreed, her father turned away, with tears in his eyes as Brown’s curls got shaved away. Despite her father’s reaction, Brown calls the decision the best she’s ever made.
2. Scaring Will’s (Real-Life) Mother with a Cadaver
In one of the most bizarre incidents during the production of the show, the Duffer brothers thought it’d be a good idea to show Noah Schnapp’s (the child actor who plays Will) mother a frighteningly realistic “corpse” of her son. This stems from the season one plot line in which the shady government agency has created a replica of Will in order to cover up his disappearance.
They led her to a dark corner of the props room and revealed the corpse, which shocked her. According to the Duffer Brothers she loved it, but only after the shock subsided. It’d be hard for Schnapp’s mother not to have a few nightmares after that frightening day on set.
1. The Kiss at the Snow Ball
One of the most heartwarming moments of the series took place on the last episode of season two. All was right again in Hawkins (…well, not really, since the world is never OK in this show), with the demigorgons and the Shadow Monster seemingly defeated. The friends attend the Snow Ball dance, where Lucas’s romance with Max culminated with a kiss, while Mike got his wish with the arrival of Eleven, and they too shared a romantic kiss. What few fans know about Mike’s kiss with Eleven was that he quietly mouthed the words, “I’m coming in,” before leaning in to kiss his co-star. After both couples kissed, the whole crew broke out in applause. It became so overwhelming that Millie Bobby Brown said the remaining takes became so much worse to film.
For Caleb McLaughlin and Sadie Sink, the actors who played Lucas and Max, their kiss at the Snow Ball was their first actual kiss. And while there was controversy surrounding that particular kiss as it was initially suggested Sink was coerced into doing something she wasn’t comfortable with, she has since denied that she was forced to do anything against her will.