The world is abuzz over Netflix's original series, Stranger Things, and who are we to deprive our beloved Archivists from divulging in their favorite television shows? The tale of Eleven, the missing Will Byers, and the mysterious organization at the heart of it all was a great call-back to the 80's, but, really, that's no secret to anyone that's watched it. Maybe, though, we can provide some new details about the quirky production with these 10 facts you didn't know about Stranger Things. In case it needs to be said, spoilers await in the Upside Down.
Real Life Inspiration
We've beaten to death the idea that Stranger Things had many inspirations in the film, television, and gaming worlds, but what about the real world? Before you guffaw at the thought of any real-world events inspiring a show about telepathy, monsters, and other dimensions, we'll refer back to our mention of the show's original title, Montauk. Originally set to be based in Montauk, New York, a coastal town on Long Island, Stranger Things pulls plenty of influence from stories revolving around Camp Hero, a former Army base in the region, and the Montauk Project. The sinister conspiracy was believed to be laden with stories of child abduction, extraterrestrial involvement, teleportation, and mind control experiments. There's even tale of one experimental child, Duncan Cameron, who telepathically summoned a Bigfoot-like Monster named "Jr" to attack the base, allegedly leading to the end of the Montauk Project.
Building the "Upside Down"
What is the "Upside Down?" Are there other monsters slinking around the ashy wasteland? Where did the Demogorgon actually come from? What will long-term exposure do to a human? Season 1 of Stranger Things left us pondering these questions and the show's creators aim to leave us hanging at least until season 2, but it's not because they don't know the answers. To ensure they weren't just flying by the seat of their pants going into season 2, the Duffer brothers created a 30-page document that covers every aspect of the "Upside Down", a sort of bible of spoilers that will likely be revealed over the course of the upcoming second season.
Testing Stranger Things
How a show's creators go about testing their concept can vary depending on who is behind the creative wheels. For the Duffer brothers, assessing Stranger Things was about more than just the story. A big portion of the show's success came from a great use of imagery and a very 1980's feel and, to make sure that it would translate well, the creative brothers drew up a mock trailer using scenes from more than 25 classic movies. With scenes from Super 8, A Nightmare on Elm Street, E.T. The Extraterrestrial, Poltergeist, The Mothman Prophecies, among many others, the trailer was cut with music from John Carpenter. The resulting media, which is unfortunately not public, was precisely what the Duffer brothers were looking for.
For those that aren't privy to the nerdom that is Dungeons and Dragons, the name "Demogorgon" sounds like a fantastical beast created solely for the series. While the creature design was a series original, the concept of the Demogorgon is far from new. Making its first gaming appearance in the D&D supplementary rulebook Eldritch Wizardry in 1976, is the role-playing game's Prince of Demons and remains one of the greatest villains ever to grace the series; but is that where Demogorgon lore stops? Absolutely not! The name has been attributed to pagan deities of the underworld and has made an appearance in Greek mythology, but its first mention came in Lactantius Placidus' commentary on Publius Papinius Statius' epic, Thebaid. Prior to Dungeons and Dragons, the Demogorgon has been mentioned in a variety of literary works, such as John Milton's epic poem, Paradise Lost, Herman Melville's Moby Dick, and Voltaire's short story, "Plato's Dream."
Auditions for Miles
Being a casting director can't be an easy job. There's an endless pool of talent to pull from and your direction could wind up making or breaking a character. For Stranger Things casting director Carmen Cuba, filling the roles of the pre-teen leads was definitely no easy feat considering how quickly a poor child performance can tank a production. To perfect the roles of Mike, Dustin, Will, Lucas, and Eleven, Cuba and the Duffer Brothers auditioned over 1,200 children. Approximately 906 boys and 307 girls read scenes from the show's first episode and from Rob Reiner and Stephen King's Stand By Me.
The adorable toddler sister of leading male Mike wasn't a big part of the show, even less-so than the fan-favorite Barb, so you may be wondering what there could be to possibly tell about the youthful actress? Well, first off, the toddler was played by twins, but that may not have been a massive surprise. What's incredible about Holly is that, on more than one occasion, the toddler provided spot-on unscripted moments. While likely just responding to the actions of her fellow actors, everything fit perfectly into the scene, like when she responded affirmatively to Winona Ryder's inquiry of if she saw the Demogorgon. The twins behind Holly's performance also provided Rick Grimes with a new daughter in The Walking Dead.
Titling Stranger Things
The title Stranger Things may initially sound… well… strange, but it does fit well into the theme of the show and plays a fun homage to Stephen King's Needful Things. Despite how well it fits, Stranger Things wasn't the first title that the show's creators Matt and Ross Duffer fell upon. In fact, it was far from the first. Initially titled Montauk for reasons we'll cover later on, the show later changed location and required a title change. The many titles that the show went through, according to Matt, remains - and will always remain - a mystery, because they were so embarrassingly bad. To come up with the show's moniker, the duo referred once again to Stephen King, using a cover of Firestarter to come up with something that fit both thematically and the 80's style they aimed for.
Disdain for Eggos
The youthful science experiment named Eleven was likely brought up on a strange diet, or at least that's what we have to assume was the case for her to fall in love with a simple frozen breakfast waffle upon her escape. That's not to say Eggos are bad, but there's definitely more out there to get addicted to. Regardless of where you stand on the frozen waffle, Eleven's love for Eggos is actually as ironic as it is adorable. In an Instagram video, Millie Bobby Brown, the actress that portrays Eleven, confesses to actually hating Eggos, calling them "gross". Much like E.T's obsession with Reese's Pieces, though, Eleven couldn't seem to get enough of the frozen treat.
Overt Love for Barb
Shannon Purser's character, Barb, may not have played a major role in the length of the story, but the first-time actress' portrayal of the do-good teenager apparently left an impression on fans. From street art dedications to countless memes, love for Barb erupted among fans, and while Purser likely appreciated the initial attention, it started to bleed into her real life. Even after starring in Stranger Things, the actress continued working at a movie theater, but the sudden outburst of Barb-love started bringing fans into the theater to visit her at work. Not wanting to disturb the business, Purser quit. Worry not, though! The actress is lined up for a new television series, Riverdale, and her first film debut, Life of the Part.
Chock Full of References and Nods
It's well known that Stranger Things is a callback to those great movies and television shows of the 1980's, but how much of a callback was quite surprising. Not just wanting to "feel" like an 80's production, the team behind the show decided to pay tribute to the works that inspired their story, even throwing in some inspiration from a few modern video games. Curious as to which of your favorite productions received nods in the Netflix series?
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
E.T. The Extraterrestrial
The Last of Us
The Lord of the Rings
Nightmare on Elm Street
Pretty in Pink
Stand by Me