Stranger Things has taken our Netflix nights by storm and experienced overnight success. Fans just simply cannot get enough of the ’80s throwback nostalgia and campy references to old sci-fi movies. It is no secret that Netflix has established itself now as a powerhouse production company and a force to be reckoned with. The overnight success of Stranger Things that started out as a summer hit and returned just in time for Halloween for the second season. What fans can’t get enough out of Stranger Things is the creative originality in world full of reboots, remakes and spin-offs.
What started out as a small budget under the direction of twin brothers, Matt and Ross Duffer has become a cult classic of a television series. Netflix has done it again creating gold like this for us to binge watch. The breath of fresh air comes from the fact that we are not seeing up-and-coming talents and new faces to acting rather than the same generic Hollywood stars regurgitated. What it took to get Stranger Things off the ground and into a real television show required a lot of perspiration, innovation and authentic creativity. Here are 15 shocking facts that you didn’t know about Stranger Things.
15. It was rejected 15-20 times before earning Netflix’s approval
The creators of Stranger Things, Matt and Ross Duffer admitted in an interview with Rolling Stone that the show was rejected between 15-20 times by various networks before landing their deal with Netflix. Many network executives just couldn’t wrap their head around the idea of casting a bunch of children as lead roles without it actually being a children’s show. In fact, executives were trying to bend the plot in a different direction but the Duffer brothers refused to compromise. The Duffers were told that they needed to go in one direction or the other. Rolling Stone reported: “You either gotta make it into a kid’s show or make it about this Hopper [detective] character investigating paranormal activity around town.” Clearly, it was their loss because the show has become an overnight sensation.
14. 906 boys and 307 girls auditioned for the lead roles on the show
Hollywood is cutthroat. It is even more cutthroat if you are an aspiring child star competing against other child stars for a role that you covet. Clearly, the Duffer brothers did their grunt work when they were casting for Stranger Things. They wanted to see as much variety as possible to make sure that contenders fit the bill for their particular written roles for each of the characters. Once the budget was set in place, the kids were brought on for some long and grueling auditions. After what was probably days of long lines, anxiety, and harsh rejection, the Duffer brothers found the golden kids that they were looking for. It was sure worth the long, sufferable filtering process because Stranger Things is pure gold.
13. There’s a 30-page backstory to the Upside Down monster
The upside down monster has been a terrifying mystery that has disturbed the show and proved itself to be an antagonist. As we know, the “Upside Down” is a barren, unpopulated wasteland that underlies the human world but yet inhabits the same geography. The upside down monster on Stranger Things is a force to be reckoned with but only few people in the small town really know about. In fact, there is an entire backstory about the upside down monster that we have the entire series to uncover. The content and backstory behind its very existence was all the product of creativity inside the Duffer brother’s minds. One thing for sure is that this show will keep us on our toes. Seriously, who cares about the collapse of House of Cards when you have Stranger Things?
12. The toddlers on set were terrified by the “monster”
This should probably come as no surprise that the younger cast members on Stranger Things were initially petrified by the show’s monster. The producers and cast members of Stranger Things tried to coax them into believing that it wasn’t really that big of a deal. They even ventured as far as to convince them that they should think of the monster as the beloved Pixar movie, Monsters Inc. Sometimes, all it takes is just planting a seed in the kid’s head. The Duffer brothers told Entertainment Weekly, “Someone had the clever idea to tell them that the monster was not a bad monster at all; rather, he came from the world of Monstropolis in Monsters, Inc. And it worked! The monster wasn’t scary to them anymore, he was a friend!”
11. People can’t get enough of Barb (played by Shannon Purser)
The awkward, dorky yet lovable Barb has made her way into mainstream pop culture and adored by ironic hipsters everywhere. Shannon Purser made her acting debut as the breakout character as Barb in Stranger Things. Despite the fact that she rarely got any screen time, she still managed to leave an impression as that lovable wet blanket that everyone adores but would never want to be. This Barb character has created a cult following with never-ending memes idolized in her name. Her character wasn’t originally supposed to be a big deal, but for some reason, she has developed into a fan favorite. It is hard to say if Purser will go on to take on a full fledged acting career or if she will just get pigeonholed as Barb. Only time will tell.
10. They had the kids read classic scenes from Stand By Me in their auditions
When it comes to ’80s classic movies where kids take the lead role (but it still isn’t necessarily a “kid’s movie”), Stand By Me takes the cake. In fact, that whole movie is safe to be considered the foundation in which the entire series of Stranger Things is built. Granted, there are countless numbers of references to ’80s movies and TV shows in that entire series, but the plot line runs more true to Stand By Me. Therefore, it only seems fitting that the kids were instructed to read lines from that movie during their audition for Stranger Things. The camaraderie between pre-teen boys (or pretty much any male at any age for that matter) just seems to transcend time not matter what decade you grew up in.
9. The kids were instructed to watch classic movies like Stand By Me, The Goonies and Poltergeist
Even though Stranger Things is shot in a time that are way before the young child actor’s time, there is never any excuse for them to not do their research. These kids literally have to warp themselves into a time machine and pretend that they are Generation Xers that will grow up to be even older than the majority of the people reading this article right now. Therefore, it was important that they channeled their knowledge through cult movies of yesteryear. Good old ’80s movies that involve the good old fashioned so-bad-that-they-are-good special effects coupled with the group dynamic of being a kid reaps gold for Netflix through Stranger Things. These child actors are amazingly talented and it goes without saying. It makes us all feel the wave of nostalgia.
8. Dustin’s voice dramatically changed during filming that they weren’t able to use his voice for additional dialogue recording after the end of production
Ah, puberty. You have to love that time of your life when your hormones are completely out of whack and you have no idea what is going on in your life both mentally and physically. One of our absolute favorite boys out of the whole crew had to go through this as he was filming the first season. Dustin (played by Gaten Matarazzo) is arguably the most adorable character on the show and we simply cannot get enough of him. His lisp, underbite and head of curls make him impossibly endearing that we just want to reach through the screen and give him a big hug. It will be interesting to see how these kids grow up on this show as they go through the most turbulent stage of their life: adolescence.
7. Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, and John Carpenter were the major sources of inspiration
One thing that is very apparent about Stranger Things is that it uses neon, in-your-face typography when it comes to the opening credits. On some sort of subconscious level, we can remember those bold flashing letters from the old novels in our elementary school’s public library. Unless you have been living under a rock for your entire life, you must have heard about the classic works of Stephen King and his scary stories. Well, Stranger Things draws from the works of those classic authors like Stephen King married with the classic filmmaking edginess of Steven Spielberg. Stranger Things is just a beautiful mashup of a time that has long past since the digital age of the Internet. We can only look back and remember (or wonder if we are too young) what that must have been like.
6. Millie Bobby Brown, who plays Eleven, was handpicked by Steven King who tweeted about her
On September 28, 2014 Stephen King tweeted about a performance that he noticed by Millie Bobby Brown. It read: “Millie Brown, the girl in INTRUDERS, is terrific. Is it my imagination, or are child actors a lot better than they used to be?”
Naturally, that piqued the interest of the Duffer brothers since they chose her as the role for Eleven. Since Stranger Things makes many references to the works of Stephen King, it was only natural that they follow his lead and chose a child actress that only he personally admired. The young British actress has risen to stardom, almost as high as the likes of Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones. There is just something authentic about her acting style that makes her seem endearing.
5. Eleven’s shaved head was inspired by Charlize Theron in Mad Max
Very few women can even pull off having short hair, let alone a buzz cut. Millie Brown and Charlize Theron (even though she is much older) rock it in both Stranger Things and Mad Max. Yes, her head was really shaved for Stranger Things which is a small sacrifice given how much of a star she has become now. The Duffer brothers had to convince the 12-year-old actress’s parents that she would look awesome with a shaved head. They showed her a picture of Charlize Theron as Furiosa in Mad Max and said, “see, she looks badass, right?”
According to Entertainment Weekly: “When the day of the haircut finally arrived, Millie’s mom brought out a camcorder, while her dad ran away with tears in his eyes, unable to watch. It was a pretty dramatic scene. But also very quick,” they continued. “Within 10 minutes we had shaved it all off and slapped a fake ‘11’ tattoo on Millie’s wrist. Millie looked at herself in the mirror, gave her best Furiosa scream — and Eleven was born.”
4. The directors also told Millie they wanted her performance to resemble E.T.
When you watch E.T., most of the main characters are boys and to be asking a girl to mimic that type of performance requires a lot of tomboyishness to bring to life. Millie Brown never disappoints with her role as Eleven because she is an alien from an alternate universe (or is she?) Her telepathic talents and her adorable shyness make her an enigma to the group of boys. She stands out from all the other girls that go to their middle school because of her special powers that she possesses. She seems to waltz in and out of the woodwork and disappear at a moment’s notice. Her understanding of how other human beings interact is somewhat confusing to her because she is not from this world.
3. Winona Ryder modeled her character, Joyce after Meryl Streep in Silkwood
Winona Ryder couldn’t have chosen a more perfect character to model after than Meryl Streep’s Karen Silkwood. Silkwood is a movie based on a true story about a woman who was put through torture and faced the threat of murder for investigating and reporting health and safety concerns at the Kerr-McGee plutonium plant. Winona Ryder cut her hair for Stranger Things in that almost-but-not-quite mullet with her hair stringy. It suits her character’s perpetual distraught and stressed-out mood. Both Ryder and Streep’s characters are similar not just in their haircut but the fact that they are both fighting hard to expose the truth. Ross Duffer said, “We got that image from her early on. She stated, ‘This is Joyce. This is what she’s gotta appear to be.’” It’s good to establish that foundation earlier rather than later.
2. It required 1,200 pounds of Epsom salt to get Eleven to float in the kiddie pool
Remember that epic scene where Eleven floats in the pool to channel that monster that has been disturbing the peace? Luckily, with the help of her science teacher, Mr. Clarke and her group of friends, they were able to put a pool together were she could float and focus using warm water and salt. When the Stranger Things crew was trying to record the scene in real life, it was literally like a science experiment. Though Mr. Clarke stated in the show that it would take 1,500 pounds of salt, it in fact required 1,183 lbs of salt in 50 lbs bags to get Mille Brown to float the way she did. Her ‘4″10 frame required a 6-foot pool so that she didn’t bump into the walls.
1. Holly is actually played by twins Anniston and Tinsley Price
That adorable little blonde girl named Holly in Stranger Things was definitely inspired by Drew Barrymore’s character in E.T. (or at least it is safe to assume so). Just like the Olsen twins in Full House, the role of Holly is actually played by twins Anniston and Tinsley Price. Perhaps is a good strategy to have twins share the burden of playing a role since there are long hours on the set. Even more fun of a fact is that these identical twins play the role of Judith Grimes on The Walking Dead. At the rate they are going, these five-year-old twins should be able to retire by the time they are twelve and not have to work for the rest of their life. Lucky them.
Source: Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, Buzzfeed, Cheat Sheet, Movie Pilot, Popular Science
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