10 Surprising Facts About Stranger Things
The kids and monsters of Hawkins, Indiana, own our Steven Spielberg-loving hearts. Eleven and the crew navigate adolescence in a dangerous world filled with face-splitting, interdimensional beasts, and phones that do not work unless they're tethered to the wall. Terrifying!
The second season of Stranger Things expanded the mythology of The Upside Down, gave Eleven a big city makeover, and delivered the Dustin/Steve bromance we didn’t know we needed, but they’ve just now started filming season 3, so we’ll have to wait a while to explore life in the brand-new mall coming to town.
In the meantime, grab your flashlight and Huffy bike and let’s learn 10 facts about Stranger Things.
1. THE SHOW IS BASED ON A REAL TIME TRAVEL PROJECT.
There aren’t any transdimensional horror-beasts rampaging through quiet suburban towns (that we know of), but Stranger Things is based on real conspiracy theories about the United States government conducting reality-bending experiments on children. Specifically, the Montauk Project, which has been referenced in other fiction from Lost to Thomas Pynchon’s novel Bleeding Edge. Much of what Eleven experiences in the laboratory corresponds to the alleged events of the Montauk Project. The show was also initially called Montauk and set on the far edge of the Long Island peninsula. (Montauk was also the inspiration for the town in Jaws, another story of a monster menacing a small community, and one of many Spielberg movies that inspired Stranger Things.)
2. THEY AUDITIONED 906 BOYS and 307 GIRLS FOR THE MAIN ROLES.
The Duffer brothers and casting director Carmen Cuba undertook the gargantuan task of hearing from 1213 child actors to get the right people for what would be crucial roles. They had them read scenes from the pilot episode as well as scenes from Stand By Me. You can tell from the ratio that they extended the net widest to find Eleven, and, despite a sea of child actors at their disposal, they cast Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin immediately. Smart move.
3. STEPHEN KING HAD A HAND IN CASTING MILLIE BOBBY BROWN.
Millie Brown, the girl in INTRUDERS, is terrific. Is it my imagination, or are child actors a lot better than they used to be?
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) September 28, 2014
When you’re going up against that kind of competition for a role, it helps to have someone influential in your corner. Millie Bobby Brown had a heavyweight. The master of horror saw Brown in the BBC show Intruders and publicly praised her work on Twitter, giving her a leg up in the race to become a stranger thing.
4. THE SHOW WAS ALMOST AN ANTHOLOGY SERIES WITH DIFFERENT CHARACTERS AND SETTINGS EVERY SEASON.
The Stranger Things that we know almost didn’t come to be. The Duffer brothers meant for it to kick off with a monster-centric flash of 1980s nostalgia, but then they wanted it to tell new eerie tales and progress through the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and then 2020 in a final season that would air in 2020. The show would have said goodbye to Eleven, Dustin, Will, Mike, Lucas, and the rest of the cast after the first season. Luckily, they realized how special the team they’d assembled was and chose to keep focusing on their original story.
5. DACRE MONTGOMERY HAD AN UNUSUALLY SHIRTLESS AUDITION TAPE.
Dacre Montgomery played the greasy-headed Billy Hargrove in the second season. The character was a nod to the classic Stephen King villain Randall Flagg, who has appeared in several of the author's novels. But in his audition, Montgomery channeled a lot of other demons. He read through the prepared scenes, but then added a Duran Duran song in the middle of reciting the scene where he tries to run down Max’s (Sadie Sink) new friends, started dancing, went a little nutty, and then ended the entire thing with a newfound mustache and without a shirt. Ross Duffer said they hired him without needing to fly him out to Los Angeles. “I’ve watched thousands of auditions now, and it’s by far the most bonkers that I’ve witnessed,” he said. Good thing they played it at the Netflix board meeting.
6. ELEVEN IS MODELED AFTER E.T.
In the first season, Eleven dons a pink dress and absurd blonde wig in an homage to E.T., but the Easter egg is also a clue to her entire, otherworldly character. “[The Duffer brothers] told me that the performance that they wanted me to resemble was E.T. and that relationship between E.T. and the kids,” Brown said. "I thought that was very interesting, and Matt and Ross were like, ‘Basically you’re going to be an alien.'" Accordingly, Eleven (like Spielberg’s extraterrestrial wonder) does more with body language than dialogue.
7. BROWN ONCE SHOWED UP TO SET COVERED IN GLITTER.
While discussing the unique challenges of working with a young cast, the Duffer brothers like to point to a story where production halted for a brief period of time because Brown showed up to set inexplicably covered completely in glitter. No, they never figured out where the glitter came from. No, they never have to worry about that type of thing happening to David Harbour.
8. THE DUFFER BROTHERS PULLED A MORBID PRANK ON NOAH SCHNAPP’S MOTHER.
Noah Schnapp plays Will Byers, whose disappearance sets the entire show into motion and whose fake dead body covers up the government’s secret project (for about five minutes). The show ordered a prop body from Fractured FX, and when it arrived, they used it to freak out Schnapp’s mom. “We immediately took Noah’s mom aside, told her we had something to show her, and led her into a dark closet where we had propped up this frighteningly realistic corpse of her son,” the Duffer brothers said. “After the initial shock, she loved it.” Schnapp’s mom posed for pictures with the fake corpse, which she then texted to her friends.
9. THE GANG WENT TRICK-OR-TREATING TOGETHER.
It’s probably a lot easier to remain anonymous when you’re behind a mask, even if you’re on a wildly popular Netflix show. All the kids are famous for being friends in real life (they even have a group chat called Stranger Texts), and they’ve even adventured out on Halloween together. “This one kid was like, 'Are you the cast from Stranger Things?'" Brown explained. “And I was like, 'No, I’m Harley Quinn.'"
10. BOB NEWBY ALMOST HAD A VERY DIFFERENT FATE.
Sean Astin’s lovable lunk Bob Newby gave the second season a puzzle master and a Boy Scout’s moral compass, but the character evolved in a lot of ways since his creation. At first, the Duffer brothers weren’t sure they wanted Astin for the role because, while he’s a living nod to The Goonies, he might have stood out as being too famous as a geek icon. Then they planned to kill him off early on, but Astin and the character were too good. What’s really surprising though is the way they intended to dispose of him: Will was supposed to murder Bob.
Evil Will was supposed to show up far earlier in the season and end the man dating his mom. Fortunately, the plan was scrapped and Astin convinced the Duffer brothers to give him a Jaws-like, gruesome death. You died a hero, Bob!