There is much mystery surrounding Netflix's smash hit nostalgiafest, Stranger Things, especially in reference to that Season Three cliffhanger. To casual fans of the the '80s-set series about ordinary children plagued by extraordinary and dangerous circumstances, there is still much to know about what goes on behind the scenes.
Are Natalia Dyer and Charlie Heaton, like their characters Nancy and Jonathan, dating in real life? What was Dacre Montgomery's workout plan for Season Three? Did the Duffer Brothers steal the idea of the show from someone else? Are Demogorgons real?
Not so sure about that last one, but the others we can shed some light on. These are some of the strangest secrets behind Stranger Things.
How Starcourt Represents ’80s Mall Culture So Accurately
Many of Stranger Things 3‘s most crucial moments take place at the ultimate summer destination for teens in the 1980s: the mall. If you ever wondered how the production crew was able to recreate the interiors of a shopping center circa 1985 so accurately, it is probably because the filmed in a mall that was built in 1984.
Filling in for the Starcourt was the Gwinnett Place Mall, a shopping center on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia, that has, decidedly, seen better days. Much of its stores has been abandoned in recent years. On the bright side, its dying nature made the retro renovation process much easier for production of the nostalgic show.
“You could see the echoes of what had been an incredibly ’80s showpiece mall atrium,” Stranger Things production designer Chris Trujillo told the Los Angeles Times. He added that the Gwinnett Place’s open two-story design ensured that the location “was really going to work for the dynamic camerawork the Duffers like to do.”
We Almost Saw The Duffer Brothers’ Take On A Classic Stephen King Story
It is clear in everything from the Stranger Things logo to the show’s small town setting or twisted children’s point of view that The Duffer Brothers are huge fans of literary horror auteur Stephen King. In fact, before creating the series, the twins were hoping to bring one of the author’s most celebrated novels, It, to the big screen when the updated adaptation was still having development issues.
However, Matt and Ross were turned down from directing the film, allowing Andy Muschietti to step in for the job, which inspired them to instead develop their own King-esque tale, which is what Stranger Things became. Coincidentally, Finn Wolfhard, who plays Mike Wheeler on the series, also stars in the 2017 horror hit as Richie.
You Can Actually Visit Hopper’s Cabin… If You Dare
The less-than-luxurious home belonging to Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) has evolved into a location of iconography in regards to Stranger Things after it was featured prominently in the second season. The actual cabin, which reportedly cost the production crew only $1 to use, has since become a tourist spot with a fun twist.
The cabin is located in Sleepy Hollow Farms of Atlanta, Georgia, where an escape room attraction called Escape Woods is also located. Following the third season of Stranger Things, the company decided to take the cabin and turn it into an escape room of their own with thrilling challenges inspired by the show.
Dacre Montgomery Actually Tried To Tone Down His Hunkiness To Play Billy
As Billy on Stranger Things, Dacre Montgomery has captured the hearts of many with his boyish good looks and chiseled physique. Believe it or not, the Australian actor actually made a conscious decision to dial back on his muscular appearance in preparation to play the character.
Following his role in 2017’s Power Rangers which required a more imposing appearance from him, he felt that toning down on his six-pack would suit the role of Billy more appropriately. Montgomery shared with Lifestyle Inquirer, “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.”
Ironically, Montgomery still achieved the bragging rights of being Stranger Things‘ most popular dreamboat. Just ask the swimming pool-dwelling housewives of Hawkins.
Gaten Matarazzo Has Dustin’s Medical Condition In Real Life
There is a scene in the third season of Stranger Things in which Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) assures that he will be able to fit inside a Starcourt air vent in order to locate a secret Russian embankment located somewhere beneath the mall. He explains why in two words: “No collarbones,” prompting Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) to explain the rare medical condition Dustin suffers from to Robin (Maya Hawke).
The medical condition in question is known as cleidocranial dysplasia, a hereditary condition that results in abnormal development of the collarbone and bones in the skull. Matarazzo actually has this condition, which was later written into the show. It was helpful in explaining how Dustin was noticeably missing a few at 12 years old in the first season.
Steve Was Originally Written As A Much Darker Character
Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) has undergone one of the more fascinating character arcs since the first season of Stranger Things. By Season Two, he became an easy fan favorite, especially after teaming up with Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) to fight off the “demodogs,” despite being introduced as the kind of high school student you love to hate. As it turns out, he was initially intended to be much more hateful.
The Duffer Brothers later admitted that they wrote Steve as “the biggest [jerk] on the planet,” and even planned for him to violently assault Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer) in the original script. Once the creators realized how charming and likable Keery had made the character out to be, they steered into the skid and made him a hero.
Fans of Dacre Montgomery can thank Keery’s unexpected influence on Steve’s arc for the introduction of Billy, who was written in to fill Steve’s original role as the series’ human villain.
Millie Bobby Brown’s Unusual Problem That Delayed Shooting
During an interview with NPR, Stranger Things creators Matt and Ross Duffer had nothing but praise for Millie Bobby Brown, the British actress who plays young psychic, Eleven. They gushed over how amazed they were that an actor of her youth (she was just 11 years old at the time of her casting) had the talent to convey her character’s emotional depth with very little dialogue or speak in the professional manner they would expect from someone like David Harbour or Winona Ryder.
The Duffer Brothers did admit, however, that there was one moment that reminder them that Brown is still a “little girl,” which even turned out to be problematic to the shooting schedule. Ross recalled, “One day she showed up on set and she [was] just covered head to toe in glitter. And she’s like, ‘I don’t know where this glitter came from.’ And it’s like, I’m not having this problem with any of my adult actors. David Harbour is not coming in covered in glitter.”
Apparently, removing the glitter from Brown’s took roughly 45 minutes, causing that day’s shooting schedule to be delayed.
Some Believe The Stranger Things Cast Needs To “Break The Habit”
Stranger Things 3 received almost universal acclaim from critics and fans alike. It did, however, catch a bit of heat from some people who found a frequent habit shared by Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Hopper (David Harbour) quite offensive.
In July 2019, the Truth Initiative released a survey that found Stranger Things as one the worst offenders on TV in regards to smoking on-screen. Netflix responded to this controversy by officially announcing that, “all new projects that we commission with ratings of TV-14 or below for series or PG-13 or below for films, will be smoking [or vaping] free, except for reasons of historical or factual accuracy.”
Maya Hawke’s Famous Parents
Stranger Things 3 saw welcome addition of a new member to the Hawkins crew, Robin. There is still much more to learn about the character, played by newcomer Maya Hawke, who was introduced as Steve Harrington’s co-worker at Scoops Ahoy, but the trivia we know about the actress is already quite fascinating.
Hawke is the 21-year-old daughter of Academy Award-nominated actors Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman. Her casting on Stranger Things was also a reunion of sorts, since David Harbour and Winona Ryder had both worked with her father in previous projects. Hawke also makes an appearance in Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood, the latest film by her mother’s old friend and frequent collaborator, Quentin Tarantino.
An ’80s Band That Inspired The Music Of The Show Is A Fan
One of the most endearing and transfixing elements of Stranger Things is the music. The ambient, John Carpenter-esque synth score sets the perfect mood for the suspenseful tone and ’80s-centric aesthetic. In fact, the music is so effective that even caught the ears of some of the artists who inspired it.
Season 1 features three songs by German band Tangerine Dream (a prominent electronic music act in the ’80s), incuding “Green Desert,” “Exit,” and “Horizon.” The band was apparently very impressed with the series’ soundtrack that they covered Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein’s theme song on their 2017 album, Particles, and have been known to perform it live on occasion.
The Depressing Story Behind Eleven’s Season One Haircut
A key element of the Stranger Things experience has been watching the evolution of Millie Bobby Brown’s hair. Initially rocking a shaven head (modeled after Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa in 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road), Brown’s character Eleven has since been granted the liberation to let her hair grow, which adopted a time setting-appropriate frizz in the third season.
The story of Eleven’s Season One look actually brought some to tears. As Brown’s head was being shaved for the role, her mother actually filmed the event, which was later uploaded to YouTube. Brown’s father, however, is not seen in the video because he could not bear to watch his daughter losing her hair, so he fled the scene to cry to himself.
The Secret Behind Will’s Fake Body
Boy, did the ruthless, corrupt employees of Hawkins Lab (and the production crew of Stranger Things) have us fooled when Will Byers’ lifeless “body” was found in the fourth episode of Season 1. That was until Jim Hopper (David Harbour) discovered that the corpse was an anatomically correct, life-sized, cotton stuffed doll built with the intention to conceal the existence of Will’s actual whereabouts: the Upside Down. Of course, Will’s mother, Joyce (Winona Ryder), and those who have ever watched a movie of TV show before knew that something was a little off about the body, partially because, in reality, it is not an exact recreation of his full likeness.
To create the fake corpse, special effects makeup artists for the series made a cast of actor Noah Schnapp’s head, but the rest of his body was made from a cast of very petite woman. This was due to the fact that make-up artists prefer to not do full body moulds on children.
Eleven And Will Are Much Closer In Real Life
While Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) was instrumental in helping the Hawkins crew locate and retrieve Will (Noah Schnapp) in Stranger Things, she barely shares any screen time with him in either of the first two seasons. In Season 3, Eleven would rather hang out with Mike (Finn Wolfhard), and later Max (Sadie Sink).
In real life, however, Brown and Schnapp are very close friends, with the young actress going as far as admitting that she largely shipped the idea of Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Hopper (David Harbour) ending up together in hopes to work alongside Schnapp more closely. As the ending of Season 3 reveals, it appears that she got her wish, but with a tragic price, as the supposed death of Hopper led Joyce to adopt Eleven as Will’s new stepsister.
Jonathan And Nancy’s Romance A Reality?
The first season of Stranger Things shamelessly teased audiences with the “will they, won’t they?” story arc between Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton) until finally bringing them together in Season 2. Between those first two seasons, the actors’ chemistry prompted fans to speculate if life was imitating art between the Brit and the starlet.
As of December 2017, Dyer and Heaton made their first public appearance as a couple and have since spoken publicly about the experience of working with, as Dyer puts it when talking to Refinery 29, “somebody you go home with.” With Stranger Things 3 having ended on a dour note with the Byers’ move forcing Nancy and Jonathan apart, one can only wonder how “star-crossed lover” status will affect the couple, but things between their actor counterparts still look pleasant.
Was The Idea For Stranger Things Stolen?
It is no mystery that just about every inch of Stranger Things‘ DNA is heavily inspired by pre-existing works of the visual media, but more on that soon. At one time, however, accusations claimed that the main plot of the series was the product of Matt and Ross Duffer’s own creative thievery.
Charlie Kessler, the creator of a 2011 short film called Montauk (the premise of which features a boy gone missing, paranormal experiments conducted by a military base, and a monstrous, interdimensional creature) filed a plagiarism lawsuit against the Duffer Brothers in 2018, claiming he revealed his idea to them at a party and they later turned it into Stranger Things. However in May 2019, just two months before the case was to go to trial, Kessler dropped the suit after documents of the Duffer Brothers’ devlopment plans for the show dating back to 2010 proved them innocent.
We would say “great minds think alike,” but a “great mind” would have been more considerate before attempting to ruin the reputation of two fellow creators.
“Stranger Things” Will Probably Have Every Nerdy Reference Imaginable Covered By The Time It Ends
When it comes to discussing explosion of pop culture references that is Stranger Things, we do not even know where to begin. The ominous opening title sequence alone is a combination of influences by 1984’s The Terminator and the traditional font style of Stephen King, who is essentially the series’ spirit animal, drawing similarities to the youth vs. evil themes of It to the inclusion of Eleven’s telekinesis, which resembles the abilities of the title character in Carrie.
We could go on about the boys’ Ghostbusters cosplay on Halloween, Natalia Dyer’s “Nancy” is awfully similar to Heather Lengenkamp’s “Nancy” in A Nightmare on Elm Street, how Sean Astin’s casting in Season 2 brings blatant tributes to Tolkein and The Goonies full circle, how Hopper’s Season 3 ensemble bears a striking resemblance to Tom Selleck in Magnum P.I., or how that Season 1 bicycle chase was just a talking alien away from being a near shot-for-shot recreation of the classic sequence in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Even then we would still be touching on just the tip of the iceberg and we can only imagine what other childhood memories the Duffer Brothers’ will pay tribute to in Season 4.
How Long Is Stranger Things Destined To Last?
It is easy to fall in love with the idea of Joyce, Hopper (?), and the younger members of the Hawkins Crew continuing their adventures protecting the world from the dangers of the Upside Down forever, but the bitter truth is that all good things have to come to end, especially if you consider the youth of the main characters part of Stranger Things‘ charm and realize that they will have to grow up at some point. You could even argue that the Season 3 finale could have made for a perfect ending to the series, but that mid-credits cliffhanger suggests otherwise.
While Netflix has made no formal announcement yet, it is likely we will see a fourth season. Whether or not that will be the series’ last is up to the Duffer Brothers, that is if they can make a decision. The creators have teased the idea of wrapping up after four or five seasons, but with no definitive answer so, until otherwise, the fate of the show, like much of its plot, remains shrouded in mystery.