The wildly popular Netflix series, Stranger Things, takes riveting storylines, excellent actors, and iconic pop culture looks and sounds of the 1980s, and turns it into a show you can’t look away from! At first, audiences weren’t sure what to think. They saw that the main cast was a group of kids so they feared it would be a typical kids’ show. They were wrong. They saw the scarier elements of the show’s progression from a 1980s arcade to the underworld, so they thought it might too scary for kids. Wrong again. If you’re reading this article, you’re probably already a fan so we don’t have to tout the show’s merits to you. What we would like to do is challenge you! These are some little-known facts about the production that even the biggest fans of the show have missed. How many did you catch?
While we’re not sure there is a lead role in Stranger Things, there is definitely a main female character in season one–the one and only, Eleven. Played by Millie Bobby Brown, Eleven was not an easy role to cast.
The show’s creators, the Duffer Brothers–along with casting director Carmen Cuba–heard from 1213 child actors when they announced they would be casting for the show. Each of these actors had to read scenes from the pilot, as well as sides from the 1980s cult classic, Stand By Me.
Ultimately, 906 boys read for all the male roles, and 307 girls read for Eleven. That’s a lot of competition for ONE female role! Especially when you consider almost all the actors had an initial read and then some sort of callback audition.
We’re glad Millie Bobby Brown won the role. We can’t imagine anyone else playing Eleven!
We Almost Saw Finn For Only One Season
Part of the joy of watching Stranger Things is that we get to watch the cast grow up!
The show was first released in July 2016. These were the ages of the cast members at that time:
Millie Bobby Brown–12, Gaten Matarazzo–14, Caleb McLoughlan–14, Finn Wolfhard–13, and Noah Schnapp–11.
Here’s something you may not have known–originally, Stranger Things was going to be an anthology series. The show was supposed to tell monster stories throughout the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, with a final show bringing us into 2020. Had they gone that direction, we would have said goodbye to the original cast after season one.
Fortunately, the creators of the show realized they put together a perfect team and decided to stick with the original characters. We’re super glad they did!
Dacre Montgomery’s Audition Was “Bonkers”
Audition tapes can be really, really boring. They tend to all look the same, in general. You’ve got an actor. The actor says their name and the name of the agent representing them. Then, they launch into reading the portion of the script they were given (also called “sides”). They usually wrap things up with a friendly, “Thank you.”
Imagine having to watch over a thousand of those in a row. Then, imagine getting an audition tape that’s totally different. For an actor, it’s a risk to change things up in a big way. For Montgomery, the change-up worked.
Montgomery, who plays Billy Hargrove, appeared shirtless in his audition tape. If you’ve seen the show, you can already assume this was a good choice. To fill you in on the details, here’s what he did:
He read through the prepared scenes. Good start. Then, he added a Duran Duran (epic ’80s band) song in the middle of reciting the scene where he tries to run down Max’s (Sadie Sink) new friends. Mid-song, he started dancing, went a little crazy, and then ended his audition by adding a mustache and ditching his shirt.
Ross Duffer said of the audition, “I’ve watched thousands of auditions now, and it’s by far the most bonkers that I’ve witnessed.” We’re glad the risk paid off!
Eleven Is Modeled After E.T.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
When it comes to loveable aliens, almost everyone in the world would agree E.T. is the best. No matter whether you saw Steven Speilberg’s classic hit in the movie theatre as a kid, or you were introduced to it much later, you likely made the connection between E.T. and Eleven when she threw on a blond wig and dress.
In an interview, Brown said, “[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.” She went on to sum it up, “Matt and Ross were like, ‘Basically you’re going to be an alien.'”
What a great piece of direction for an actor to play with! Well done, Duffer brothers. Well done Eleven. Well done E.T..
Noah Schnapp, who plays Will on the show, is by all accounts a lovely human being. So lovely, he’s often seen doing BFF things with his costar turned real-life friend, Millie Bobby Brown. While the whole gang is so close they do things like go Trick-Or-Treating and share a group text called “Stranger Texts,” Schnapp and Brown seem to have struck a special bond.
So, let’s talk about the evil side of Will. If you’ve seen the show, you know the story goes from exposition to rising action when Will is dragged into the underworld. When the underworld starts to infuse Will with evil, he begins to act as an enemy! Here’s what you may not have known . . .
In the original storyline, evil Will was supposed to kill one of our beloved characters–Bob Newby.
Bob, played by Sean Astin of The Goonies fame, was supposed to leave the show much sooner, but his character and the audience’s reaction to his portrayal were so positive, they knew they needed to keep him around longer. As a result, we had several more episodes of Bob–which we love. Astin was super excited to stick around and he only had one request–to be killed off in a truly gruesome way. *Spoiler alert* . . . the Duffer brothers definitely made that happen!
The Duffer Brothers Were Rejected Over 15 Times
The Duffer brothers are the creators of Stranger Things. As the creators, they were responsible for shopping the show to networks and production companies throughout the country. These guys had a strong vision and believed in the show. So, rather than give up after 1, 2, 3, or even 15 pitches, they kept going until they found the right fit.
The brothers told Rolling Stone one of the main criticisms of the show was that it was too adult for kids and too young for adult viewers. One network came right out and said, “You either gotta make it into a kids show or make it about this Hopper [detective] character investigating paranormal activity around town.” So much for advice, huh?
The Duffer brothers’ determination is inspiring and their artistic instincts were right on!
Real Nose Bleeds
While the Duffer Brothers didn’t ask Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven) to really make her nose bleed, they did ask her to squirt a bloody-looking solution up her nose to create the telltale sign of impending danger. Every now and then the blood was created via CGI, but most of the time, the actress was really experiencing the sensation of a nose bleed. Now THAT’S a dedication to the role.
The Goonies Inspired the Show
Before we get started with his little-known fact, we have to point out the very young Sean Astin in this photo. He’s second from the left. That’s right! Astin, who played Bob Newby in Stranger Things was famous long before the Demagorgons rolled into town. He was a veritable ’80’s legend!
The Duffer brothers watched a lot of movies when they were kids. Movies from the 1980s like E.T., The Goonies, and Poltergeist informed the style and aesthetic of Stranger Things. Because these cinema icons were so influential to their own creation, the brothers asked each of the cast members to watch these movies before they began shooting Stranger Things.
Come to think of it, we did get some serious Carol Anne vibes from Eleven’s intense–and creepy–stare!
Robin Has Super Famous Parents
Now that you know, you won’t be able to unsee it. Maya Hawke, who plays Robin in the series, is the daughter of Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman.
We knew we recognized Robin’s smile, but we couldn’t quite place it until we Googled Uma Thurman in the early 2000s. There it is!
On the topic of being added to the show during season three, Hawke said, “I had a thrilling reaction to the idea I could get to say that dialogue that the Duffer Brothers write so intelligently and so specifically.” And we’re sure the show is thrilled to have her!
Gaten Matarazzo’s Voice Change
When you set out to produce a show starring children that are right on the verge of teenage angst and puberty, there are bound to be some changes that make flashbacks and/or voiceover post edits difficult.
At the beginning of season one, Matarazzo–who plays Dustin–sounded like a kid. By the end of season one’s production calendar, he sounded older. So much older, in fact, the Duffer brothers couldn’t use him for additional dialogue recording (ADR) to correct small moments in post-production.
One of the things we love about watching Stranger Things is getting to see the gang grow up and the storylines grow along with them!
Dating in Real Life
Okay, we realize you probably already knew this, but Natalia Dyer (Nancy) and Charlie Heaton (Jonathan) are dating in real life. We just wanted to talk about how adorable they are and how clearly they belong together.