How Eddie And Chrissy's Dynamic Was Rewritten At The Last Minute, Why Hopper Was Nixed As Narrator, And 14 Other "Stranger Things" Facts For Superfans
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American film and television writers, directors, and producers
Note: Spoilers of all seasons of "Stranger Things" lie ahead.
I don't know about y'all, but I'm still reeling from the Stranger Things 4 finale — I'm bummed I to have wait another two years for the next and final season. Fortunately, the show creators, the Duffer Brothers, recently released their MasterClass of "Developing an Original TV Series," and it is packed with never-before-seen outlines, first-draft scripts, and pitch documents of the hit show that aspiring showrunners, and die-hard Stranger Things fans, will love.
It was fascinating to peek into one of the most popular shows in the world, and see how much changed from the first to final draft. So, here are the early stage Stranger Things plots and ideas that were ultimately scrapped, or improved upon:
1.Remember when Eleven kissed Angela's face with a roller skate in Stranger Things 4? Well, it was originally supposed to be a mini golf club; the Duffer Brothers had originally written the scene to take place at a putt putt course. Once they realized all the mini golf courses where they could film at were next to giant freeways and would be way too noisy, they took the time to rewrite the scene in a roller rink — a luxury that was only possible because of COVID-19 filming delays.
"I can't imagine that scene now not taking place inside a roller rink," Matt Duffer said, "and I can't imagine Eleven not smacking Angela with a roller skate."
"You can see bloody roller skates behind us in honor of that moment," Matt gushed as he pointed to a pair of splattered skates the MasterClass crew displayed for set decoration. A mini golf club truly would not have hit the same.
2.Another amendment to Season 4 made during its filming delays: Eddie's relationship with his guitar, and Chrissy. "We didn't know until we were writing the finale that Eddie's guitar was going to serve any purpose in the story," Matt said, "so we did not set up that he had a guitar." After writing the finale, the Duffer Brothers revisited their Season 4 scripts to plant moments that set up Eddie as a guitarist. And that's how we ended up with the cute moments between Chrissy and Eddie in the woods and him kissing his guitar — an incredible setup that truly elevated Eddie's epic guitar solo.
"It wasn't just the guitar," Ross added. "The delays gave us time to go back and go, 'How can we make Eddie better?' How can we improve his voice?' And we never worked with Joseph Quinn before, so we didn't know his voice as well as the other actors. But we'd been shooting for a couple weeks with Joe [Quinn] when we had to shut down, so [during our rewriting] we'd hear Joe's voice, and started to get a better handle on him as Eddie." And here's his epic guitar solo in all its glory!
3.It's hard to imagine Stranger Things being called anything else, but in its original conception, the show was titled "Montauk." It was set in the very real town of Montauk, New York instead of the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana.
Why? The Duffer Brothers confessed that they "love a good conspiracy theory," which is what drew them to the home of the Montauk Project, a series of secret government experiments that allegedly took place during the late '70s and early '80s at the Montauk Air Force Station.
"What we liked about this conspiracy was that there was a lot flexibility of what could happen there," Matt explained. "There were talks about time travel, monsters being unleashed, and experiments on people who developed psychic abilities." It's clear the Montauk conspiracy theory was a huge inspiration of what would become Stranger Things. And while it's mostly been ruled as fiction, here's a video investigation into the Montauk Project if you're as intrigued as the Duffers:
4.While it was still in its early "Montauk"-era of development, Stranger Things was going to be follow a found-footage format — think Cloverfield or Paranormal Activity — from the point of view of the scientists as they continued studying on their only known test subject who survived. As they further developed the series and strayed further from their original concept, the Duffer Brothers' began to explore the idea of an ensemble cast outside of the confines of the lab.
5.Ultimately, the show wasn't going to be able to film in Montauk, New York. So, when it came to landing on a different and official name for the series, the Duffer Brothers were split between two choices: Indigo, the proposed name of the government agency, and Stranger Things. The reason they went with the latter? It looked cool as a title.
Other names that were thrown into the mix for consideration: The Keep, The Nether, The Tesseract, Wormland, and Wormhole. I'm very grateful they ran with Stranger Things.
I was curious enough to do a mock-up of what the show title might look like in another dimension where an alternate title won out, and I truly cannot even take it seriously.
6.In an earlier concept for the series, the police chief character who would become Hopper was meant to lead the show. However, as the the Duffer Brothers ruminated on the bigger picture of the series, they felt it'd be more interesting to keep the kids involved instead of snubbing them (like how they did with Barb's character in Season 1).
7.The pivotal cemetery scene between Billy and Max in the iconic "Dear Billy" episode was in jeopardy of not making it to screen because of COVID-19 travel restrictions and lockdowns, preventing Dacre Montgomery, who plays Billy, from leaving Australia. Filming was pushed until it couldn't wait any longer, and episode director Shawn Levy came up with a plan: Film the onscreen siblings at separate times, made possible over the course of months and a blue screen.
8.Will communicating with Joyce through Christmas lights is arguably one the most iconic visual elements of the series. We even see string lights in the background of the MasterClass! However, Joyce was originally going to talk to Will through refrigerator magnets. The change to Christmas lights was an idea from one of the writers in the Stranger Things writers room.
9.Eleven was originally supposed to be a boy, and Mike's love interest was meant to be a completely different character — the new kid at school, Chief Hopper's daughter.
10.In the original outline of the pilot, the opening hook was supposed to be that the scientist was burning alive. In the shooting script, it was changed to the scientist being hunted, chased, and then killed by an off-screen monster.
Watch the terrifying cold open again, and you'll likely agree that what was aired was a stronger, scarier, and more attention-grabbing scene than the shock value of a scientist on fire:
11.A turning point for Nancy in Season 1 is the disappearance of her best friend Barb at the beginning of Episode 3. By then, we got to better understand Barb and her friendship with Nancy, making her early death impactful and upsetting. However, the Duffer Brothers originally wrote for Barb to be killed off at the end of the pilot episode. "We realized we were moving things a little faster once we really got into the story," they explained. "So, we pushed it to later in the story."
See this Emmy-nominated actor and the clip that accompanied her nomination right here:
12.Part of the Stranger Things appeal is that the main cast of kids are outsiders with their own insecurities. Dustin's cleidocranial dysplasia was written in after casting Gaten Matarazzo, who actually has the rare genetic condition and wasn't shy to talk about it. However, the original shorthand for Dustin to be an outsider was that he was fat.
13.In the same vein, Mike was initially written as having a birthmark on his face in the original pitch document — this was meant to feed into his insecurity. This was dropped and Mike's insecurity was having, as the school bully put it in Season 1, a "frog face." Still, I was curious, so I made a mock-up of Mike with a (Prince Zuko-like) birthmark.
14.At one point while the brothers were discussing the value of a well-balanced, judgment-free writers room, Ross brought up (and poked fun at) an early pitch of Matt's — the idea of a lizard creature who is able to infiltrate the mind, which Ross was extremely doubtful about it. So, the idea was scrapped, but I can't help feeling like maybe Matt was onto something...
15.It was always part of the Duffer Brothers' plan to direct most of the episodes of Stranger Things, and it was their main motivation for conceiving the series — they wanted leverage to direct. But at one point, the brothers considered relinquishing their directing dreams because the one studio they felt was a great fit did not trust the brothers to direct. "They said, 'We don't the want the guys directing,' and we were in a tough spot," Matt confessed. "Nobody else was interested in the show." Had the Duffer Brothers conceded to the unnamed studio's caveat, we probably would have ended up with a very different show.
16.And finally: Stranger Things is pretty synonymous with Netflix, and it's one of the streaming platform's biggest wins, but that partnership was almost nonexistent. The Duffer Brothers had no plans to pitch to Netflix — they couldn't even get a meeting. So, what changed? A new executive started at the company and had a chance meeting with the Duffer Brothers' agent; the fresh exec was looking for a youth-oriented script, but wanted it to be supernatural. The Duffers' agent told the exec about "Montauk," and a pitch meeting with Matt and Ross Duffer was set. You know the rest.
Besides these behind-the-scenes facts of the iconic Stranger Things series, the Duffer Brothers really break down the overwhelming process of developing, writing, and pitching an original series in their MasterClass. "There's an element of luck and timing involved with selling a TV show, so all you can do is get your best materials in order so that you can get most people excited about your idea." And honestly, the class will guide you to do just that.
What are some other cool Stranger Things facts you know about? Or what do you think of the latest season? Let me know in the comments!