Things You Didn't Know About 'Stranger Things'
Stranger Things is one of the most beloved series on Netflix, and just one of the best series, period. It’s the show that really invented the concept of binge-watching because it was Netflix’s first big original hit. Most shows before it were released week-by-week but as a Netflix original show, Netflix released all their Stranger Things episodes at once, so there was no reason for anyone to wait for the next episode. On the downside, watching it all in a day means, you have to wait that much longer to watch the next season.
And now as we await season 4 of Stranger Things it’s time to get into the spirit of the Nether by exploring the unknown aspects of the show, the behind-the-scenes stuff that you may not be aware of. Stranger Things wasn’t conceived over night and just because a season only has a handful of episodes, doesn’t mean a lot of time and effort went into the show.
Here you’ll find all the things you didn’t know about one of your favorite Netflix shows, Stranger Things. From easter eggs to original casting choices, there are certainly some surprises on this list. Even if you knew some of these, there’s bound to be something you missed. Read on to find out!
Over 1,000 Kids Auditioned for the Show
The audition for Stranger Things included a participating 1,213 children, all competing for a role on the show: 906 boys and 307 girls – all of which read lines from the film Stand by Me. Gaten Matarazzo had signed on immediately for his role when the casting directors had received his audition tape!
As for the others, casting wasn’t so easy and there were other actors in mind. And on top of that, Millie Bobby Brown almost gave up on acting before she got her role. Fortunately, we got the amazing cast we have now that helped make the show a success. On another note: Finn Wolfhard recorded his audition tape in bed.
The Show Was Originally Title Montauk
It’s hard to imagine Stranger Things being called just about anything else as it certainly adds to its ‘80s nostalgia charm but it actually wasn’t always going to be called that. Originally, it was going to be titled Montauk, which was a reference to the setting for Jaws – obviously since the show does reference classic films.
The Duffer Brothers who conceived the idea for the show and run it to this day aimed to create a show that was a mix of Steven Spielberg and Stephen King, because apparently, they have a thing for Steves. But anyway, the name was also a reference to the Montauk Project conspiracy that says the United States government was up to all sorts of strange experiments including psychological warfare and time travel!
Networks Originally Rejected the Show
The show was originally pitched to a bunch of different cable networks until Netflix decided to pick it up and even they needed some convincing! Every network rejected the idea, and strangely (no pun intended), many network executives believed that you couldn’t have a main cast of kids without making it a children’s show.
Instead, they were told that the premise should be reworked to focus on Hopper and be a detective story because, otherwise, it wouldn’t work. But boy, were they wrong, and we have the show we have now. After 15 to 20 pitches, Netflix ordered a whole season a day later. Smart move.
Gaten Matarazzo Couldn’t Record Any Extra Lines After Filming Season One
There is one huge problem with centering a television series around a group of children and that’s the fact that children inevitably grow up. That means you have to deal with body changes including their height and their voice and that was their problem with Gaten Matarazzo who plays Dustin.
At some point, between the end of filming of the first season and the editing process afterward, Gaten’s voice had changed so much that they couldn’t record any new lines in post-production because the tone of his voice would no longer match up. So, hopefully, they got plenty right the first time with him.
Winona Ryder Was Cast Because She Was an ‘80s Icon
It might seem obvious if you were a huge fan back in the day, but Winona Ryder was an ‘80s icon and a huge star back in those days. Now, a little less so, making it a nice surprise for fans to see her on-screen again for Stranger Things. So, what made her get back in the acting game?
Well, let’s face it: she was someone canceled after her shoplifting stunt and hadn’t really been getting work after that point but for the casting director, she was really someone who would be perfect because she was such a big ‘80s star. The Duffer Brothers clearly agreed and she was cast. And make no mistake, she definitely lends to those ‘80s vibes.
Paul Reiser and Sean Astin Were Also '80s Refences
Winona Ryder wasn’t the only performer that was cast to muster that ‘80s nostalgia onscreen. The casting director had plenty of others in mind such as Paul Reiser who was perhaps most famous in the ‘80s for his role in the film Aliens, directed by James Cameron. And since Stranger Things really focuses on aliens, he really was a perfect fit.
The other clear ‘80s nostalgia choice was Sean Astin. While he is probably more famous now for his role in The Lord of the Rings films, back in the ‘80s, as a child star he was known for his role in The Goonies. That made him a great fit for Stranger Things since like Goonies, it also focuses on a cast of kids.
David Harbour Was the Only Choice for Hopper
No auditioning was required when it came to the role of Chief Hopper. The Duffer Brothers already had the actor in mind, everything from his persona to his physique. Although the actor had never before had a lead role in a series, the Duffer Brothers felt it was finally his time to shine.
The felt he had “waited too long” to play a leading role or a heroic character in general. And now that he has, his career has really skyrocketed. He’s even played a hero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the film Black Widow as well as playing Hellboy in his titular film.
On another note: the name Hopper, is a reference to the character from the ‘80s sci-fi film Predator.
How They Achieved an ‘80s Look...
The ‘80s look of the show is essential to its aesthetic, yet you don’t really think too much about it as you are watching, provided you are as compelled by the story and characters as we are. So, how did they achieve that perfect ‘80s look that really transports you back in time?
What they did, was go back to the classic ‘80s films, and scan in footage from those films. They digitally captured the ‘80s grainy film look and added that into post-production and that’s why it looks like you are watching something on film rather than digital footage. They also tried to use as many practical effects as possible, including puppetry, since CGI wasn’t really a thing back then.
The Inspiration for the Show...
There was much inspiration for the show. We’ve already cited Stephen King and Steven Spielberg in terms of theme, but what about the story? In part, the series was inspired by the 2013 film Prisoners in which a father does some rather questionable things to find his missing daughter, since the Duffer Brothers, too, wanted to create a story around a missing child and the struggles attached to that.
Another inspiration for the show, believe it or night, was M. Night Shyamalan. While he never directly worked on the show, he had a working relationship with the Duffer Brothers and assisted in developing the show during its creation process. Like his own films that rely on supernatural elements for thrills, he was naturally a huge inspiration for the show.
The Poltergeist Easter Egg...
Stranger Things is filled with ‘80s movie references if we haven’t made that clear enough, but what are some more that you may have missed. One was a clear Poltergeist reference in the show's first season in which Joyce, played by Winona Ryder, discovers that her son is communicating with her through the walls.
In Poltergeist, two parents discover that their daughter, who has been kidnapped by ghosts is communicating with them through the walls. So, as you can see, the plot points are virtually, and purposely the same, paying homage to the supernatural thriller. Also, like in the movie, Joyce retrieves her son from a portal.
The Altered States Easter Egg...
Stranger Things also pays homage to the ‘80s film Altered States through the use of the sensory deprivation tank in the plot. Eleven is put into one of these tanks in order to unlock her powers. In Altered States, the tanks are used to unlock psychic abilities in a similar manner.
Altered States was also an inspiration for the series’ opening title sequence. If you have never seen the film, it’s about a scientist who experiments with psychoactive substances and sensory deprivation in order to transcend known reality. It also starred the late William Hurt and Drew Barrymore.
So Many ET References
If there is one movie that Stranger Things references plenty, it has to be ET: The Extraterrestrial. For one, there’s a bike chase straight outta ET, wherein Stranger Things, the kids are escaping the United States military and Eleven uses her powers to levitate the cars. In the film ET, the kids are escaping federal agents, and ET uses his powers to levitate the bikes.
Another ET reference occurs in season two, where Will mentions that his favorite candy was Reese’s Pieces, which was ET’s favorite snack. Additionally, the disguise that is put on Eleven in order to hide her is much like the disguise put on ET. These are just some of the references. You'll probably find more!
Mars Candy Denied Permission to Use Reese’s Pieces in the Show
The Duffer Brothers wanted to go all out with the Reese’s Pieces reference from ET, but sadly, they could not. Eleven was supposed to have an obsession with the peanut butter flavored candy but Mars, the company that manufactures them, would not allow the use of their product in the series.
So, instead, Eleven’s favorite food ended up being Eggo waffles. Much like the Reese’s Pieces reference ended up spiking sales and being profitable for Mars when ET came out, there was a similar increase in sales for Eggo waffles. Eggo even allowed the use of a retro ‘80s commercial that was played during the Super Bowl to promote season two.
The Second Season Was Almost Completely Different
The second season of Stranger Things was almost entirely different because the Duffer Brothers had a whole other plan for a second season. Instead of focusing on the same group of kids, it was to focus on a cast of new characters. And the stories would not be tied together.
The first season would have been standalone while the second season would have been a completely new story. The idea was to make it an anthology series like American Horror Story or Fargo with a different storyline and characters every season. Sure, there might have been some references between each season but we wouldn’t have gotten to see the same cast again and that would have sucked.
Steve Was Originally Conceived as a Straight-Up Villain
Steve has probably one of the best redemption arcs in any series ever. The guy goes from being a typical jerk to one of the most beloved characters on the show. Ultimately, he ends up being a hero in the seasons following the first and his dynamic with the kids ends up changing completely, which was unexpected.
That wasn’t always the plan though. Originally, he was just supposed to be the antagonist without any redeeming qualities. The Duffer Brothers were even going to go as far as making him a rapist. However, they found the actor who plays him, Joe Keery, to be far too likable to do that and reworked the character to keep him on board with the rest of the cast.
The Show and Cast Were Greenlit Before the Writing Was Finished
The Duffer Brothers had only written a pilot script for “Stranger Things,” when the show was greenlit and cast for a full series order. Actually, this is actually typical for a television series, particularly since their goal in creating a series was to go to a major network. So, no other episodes had been written other than the first.
They did, however, have a 20-page book full of ideas for other episodes. The team had cast the series’ various acting roles, and as a result, the actors that were cast had a major influence on how the characters were written, particularly Matthew Modine as Dr. Brenner and the four main boys.
Inspiration for Eleven
The characterization of Eleven has been inspired by numerous works. There is, of course, ET as mentioned earlier but there’s definitely more than one. For example, the film Firestarter is about a girl with psychic abilities that she got from her parents who worked on s secret program called MKULTRA. Eleven even gets the nosebleed like Charlie’s father does in Firestarter.
Another influence on Eleven’s character has been X-Men and the character of Dark Phoenix, aka Jean Grey who has psychic abilities. This is made evident in the first episode where Dustin challenges Will to a bike race, and in exchange for winning, Will wants Dustin’s copy of X-Men issue #134, an issue in which Jean Grey turns into the Dark Phoenix.
Someone Filed a Lawsuit Against the Duffer Brothers
Charlie Kessler, in 2018, filed a lawsuit against the Duffer Brothers. He claimed that they stole the idea behind his short film Montauk, which had a similar storyline. He claimed that he pitched his film to the Duffer Brothers and that they used his ideas in the creation of their show.
In his suit, Kessler demanded a third of the income they made from the series. The Duffer Brothers, however, claimed that they never saw Kessler’s film nor spoke to him regarding it. The lawsuit went to trial in 2019 and Kessler eventually withdrew his lawsuit after the Duffer Brothers provided documentation from back in 2010 that proved they had already come up with the concept for Stranger Things.
The Meaning Behind Hopper’s Blue Wristband...
Hopper’s blue wristband is an interesting easter egg throughout the series that says something about his character development. Hopper’s past trauma of losing his daughter is delivered more organically through subtext rather than him having some heartfelt speech that would be out of character for him.
The blue wristband is actually a hair tie that belonged to his deceased daughter. He wears it in the first two seasons around his wrist until the end of season two, where you can see Eleven is now wearing it. This signifies Hopper letting go of his grief and accepting Eleven as his adopted daughter. It’s very touching without being overly sentimental.
The Show Costs as Much to Make as a Movie
To capture the look and feel of a classic sci-fi ‘80s film was not an easy nor cheap endeavor. The Duffer Brothers had a big vision and needed a bigger budget to make it a reality – well, as real as a show can be. That’s why it ended up costing just as much to produce this television show as it would be to make a major blockbuster film.
For the show’s first season, each episode cost around $6 million to make and there were eight episodes, making for a total of $48 million. The show’s second season with nine episodes had a budget of $8 million per episode and the season had a budget of $10 million. For the fourth season, the show reportedly cost $30 million per episode!
How Much the Cast Members Earn
With a show as big as “Stranger Things,” it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to hear that the actors involved are earning some big paychecks. But just how much are they making? Its main cast is earning millions per season with Winona Ryder and David Harbour raking in the most cash.
Harbour and Ryder now earn $350,000 per episode, which makes sense given their many years of acting experience, particularly for Ryder. Millie Bobby Brown, who plays Eleven, earns $300,000 per episode. Meanwhile, Gaten Matarazzo is said to have earned a total of $2.25 million for the entirety of season 4. Finn Wolfhard was last reported to earn $225,000 per episode, while Natalie Dyer and Charlie Heaton are said to earn around $100,000 per episode.
Three Cast Members Were All on Broadway
The Stranger Things cast has two actors who performed on Broadway and already knew each other. Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin, and Sadie Sink, who plays Max Mayfield, as well as Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas Sinclair), all knew each other from working on Broadway.
They did star in different productions at the time, however, so they didn’t necessarily work together. Matarazzo worked on Les Misérables, while Sink performed in Annie. McLaughlin starred in the Broadway production of Disney’s tale The Lion King. While their time on Broadway certainly wasn’t long, it proved a useful experience for the seasoned actors.
Dacre Montgomery Toned Down His Abs for the Role
Dacre Montgomery had previously worked on the 2017 film Power Rangers. For the reboot, it was necessary for him to have absolutely shredded abs, or at least he felt that way, and so he did for that role. For Stranger Things, however, it didn’t make sense to him to be that muscular.
Dacre told CR Fashion Book, “I took a step back. Guys in the '80s weren't super-shredded, so I just did a lot of boxing and my diet was not as good, which made for a more realistic body. So I'm a bit chubbier around the edges." And while he felt self-conscious about the change, he thought it was the best look for the role.
The Show Has Been Nominated for Many Awards
Stranger Things hasn’t just been a success with audiences, it’s also been a critical success and earned numerous Emmy Award nominations. Thus far, as of 2022, Stranger Things has earned a total of 31 nominations in various categories of production from sound design to cinematography and each season so far has been nominated in the Outstanding Drama Series category.
Stranger Things has won a total of seven Primetime Emmys thus far. In 2017, it won Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series, as well as Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series, Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music, Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series, and Outstanding Main Title Design. In 2018, it won for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Comedy or Drama Series and again, in 2020, for that same category. And these are just the Emmy wins, the show has won plenty of other awards including Best Show at the MTV Movie and TV Awards.
'Stranger Things' Ratings are Phenomenal
Stranger Things has been climbing in the ratings with each season but it was evident from the start that Netflix had a hit show on its hands. Within the first 35 days, Stranger Things had an average of 14.07 million adults between 18 to 45 watching. When the second premiere arrived, there were 15.8 million views over just a three-day period.
For season three, the viewership climbed to 19.6 million for the first three days of the premiere. Now for the fourth season, the premiere has managed to gain even more viewers, this time attracting more than 26.4 million viewers over a four-day period. Those are some pretty impressive numbers for a show that people can watch whenever they want.
The Music Was Composed by a Synth Band
The show’s unique ‘80s-style electronic soundtrack inspired by the likes of John Carpenter was composed by a modern synthesizer band called Survive. Two members of the band have written and performed the show’s music, really contributing to the ‘80s vibe and the overall tone of the show.
The band was discovered when the Duffer Brothers heard their music in a horror film called The Guest. They ended up using a song from that film and used it for a mock trailer they created to pitch the idea for Stranger Things. They liked the tone of the music so much that they sought the band out and asked them to compose the music for their show.
There’s a Detailed Explanation of the Nether/Upside-Down
While as a viewer you might not quite understand everything there are about one of the show's greatest mysteries – that being the Nether – it is important that the people making the show know what’s going on and that’s why the Duffer Brothers have a whole write-up all about it for the show’s staff.
The Duffer Brothers wrote a 30-page essay that explains what the Upside Down world, aka the Nether, is but it’s for the show staff only. Yes, sadly, you may never see what the Duffer Brothers wrote until perhaps the show ends, and they release a book, but who knows? For now, you’ll just have to be a little confused.
Hopper’s Home Was the Cheapest Set
So, with all the millions of dollars invested in the show, how much of it goes into the elaborate sets? Well, sometimes the answer is thousands or millions of dollars, but other times it is certainly a lot less – as is the case with Hopper’s home. Chief Hopper’s home was allegedly purchased for a mere $1 by the show’s art team.
Chief Hopper’s home is a trailer, which isn’t particularly eye-catching and isn’t well-kept, so it isn’t too surprising that it didn’t cost them much – but a dollar is still super cheap! In the show, Hopper realizes that the trailer is bugged and tears the whole thing apart, moving into a cabin that is, in real-life, located at Sleepy Hollow Farms.
Season Five is the Last Season
With season four being split into two parts, there’s been some confusion as to whether the fourth season is the final season. So, if you are worried as to whether you’ll never see Stranger Things again after this year, let us put your mind at ease. There will indeed be a fifth season and that will be the final one.
Netflix has, so far, released seven episodes of season four as part of volume one and then will release the second volume of episodes on July 1st. The second volume will only feature two episodes but they will both be super-sized feature film-length episodes that will lead directly into the fifth and final season.
The Cast Keeps in Touch When They Aren’t Filming
For many of the shows that film, cast members collect their paychecks and reconvene when it’s time to film the new season again. Not every cast has a close relationship, because sometimes they just don’t get along, like NCIS as an example, but that’s not the case for Stranger Things.
The cast of Stranger Things aren’t just coworkers, they are like family and as such keep in touch even when the show isn’t filming. They are all part of a WhatsApp group called “Stranger Texts.” But what they talk about there or what memes they share is the biggest mystery of all.