Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’ has become one of the most talked-about TV shows of our time. While noted for its 1980s setting and often ridiculous over-abundance of era-specific cultural references, the show’s genre-bending approach, myriad of mysteries and – perhaps above all – its thoroughly loveable ensemble cast has seen the Duffer Brothers’ creation sear its way into the hearts of millions of viewers. (Or so we assume: Netflix are a bit secretive about their viewing figures.)
It may be rooted in the pop culture obsessions of its creators, but ‘Stranger Things’ has become quite the object of fascination in and of itself; and as a result, there’s a definite hunger for ‘Stranger Things’-related trivia among fans.
We’re eager to oblige you there, so here are a few interesting tidbits that you might not have known about the multi-award winning small screen sensation.
1. Stranger Things was not the original title
The Duffer Brothers’ original pitch, rejected everywhere they went before Netflix picked it up, was entitled ‘Montauk,’ taking its name from a real location in Long Island, New York, where the story was initially set. A variety of urban legends surround Montauk, which inspired much of the original vision.
However, it was ultimately decided for practical reasons to relocate the action to Indiana, and a wide variety of different names were considered before ‘Stranger Things’ was settled on.
2. Winona Ryder wasn’t the first choice for Joyce
When ‘Stranger Things’ first launched on Netflix, the bulk of its publicity surrounded the fact that it gave Winona Ryder her first recurring TV role, not to mention the fact that it was the seasoned actress’s best work for many years.
However, Ryder was not the actress the Duffer Brothers initially envisaged in the role, their original pitch mentioning Naomi Watts and Marisa Tomei as possibilities for the role of Joyce Byers.
3. David Harbour wasn’t the first choice for Hopper
By contrast with Ryder, ‘Stranger Things’ second adult lead David Harbour wasn’t an especially big name before the role of Hawkins Sheriff Jim Hopper cast him into the spotlight. However, the Duffers had their eyes on a recognised star for the part at first, with Ewan McGregor and Sam Rockwell mentioned as possibilities.
Given how far removed they are from Harbour physically, it would seem the character of Hopper underwent some serious revisions along the way. And speaking of Hopper…
4. Hopper’s name, and the name of the town, are Predator references
A great many of the 1980s film references in ‘Stranger Things’ are so blatant they’re hard to miss, but you can be forgiven for not picking up on this one. Jim Hopper is the name of an unseen character in 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie ‘Predator,’ a soldier of fortune and rival of Arnie’s Dutch, whose remains are later found in the jungle.
Nor is this the only nod ‘Stranger Things’ gives to ‘Predator,’ as the show’s fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana shares its name with the solider played by Shane Black in the film from director John McTiernan.
5. Series 2 was originally intended to be set in the 1990s
Another interesting tidbit from the Duffer Brothers’ original pitch is that they originally envisaged season one of ‘Stranger Things’ as a largely self-contained story, suggesting that a follow-up series would take place ten years later, catching up with the kids as young adults who have all moved away, but are forced to return to their home town when the otherworldly evil re-emerges.
Hard to imagine ‘Stranger Things 2’ playing out that way now, given it would rob fans of more time with the cast they’ve grown to love. Plus, the whole re-uniting as adults angle is perhaps a little too reminiscent of Stephen King’s ‘It’ – and there may be a good reason for that…
6. The Duffer Brothers wanted to direct It
Before ‘Stranger Things’ happened, the Duffer Brothers – huge Stephen King fans, unsurprisingly – approached Warner Bros to pitch their vision for a big screen take on ‘It.’ However, their take was rejected, which ultimately inspired them to put most of their ideas into ‘Stranger Things’ – although, by the time the show was gearing up for production, so too was Andy Muschietti’s ‘It.’
Of course, the two productions share an actor in Finn Wolfhard (Mike in ‘Stranger Things,’ Richie in ‘It’), and at one point Wolfhard came close to pulling out of the show when it looked poised to clash with shooting on the Warner Bros horror movie. However, delays on ‘It’ freed the young actor up for ‘Stranger Things’ after all.
7. Two of its actors are disabled
Dustin actor Gaten Matarazzo has cleidocranial dysplasia, a rare genetic disorder which affects the teeth and the bones of the face. The Duffer Brothers were so enamoured with the young actor (he was the first person to be officially cast) that they made the condition part of his character.
Meanwhile, Aimee Mullins – who takes the supporting role of Terry Ives, Eleven’s birth mother – is a double amputee, both legs having been removed in infancy as she was born without fibulae. Although as Terry she spends her scenes seated in a catatonic state, in real life Mullins is a decorated Paralympian.
8. Jonathan and Nancy are a couple in real life
Aww. Yes, the mismatched teenagers with the “will they, won’t they” vibe (although, if you’ve watched Season 2, you know how that works out) have joined the likes of ‘True Blood’s Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer and ‘Game of Thrones’ Kit Harington and Rose Leslie by hooking up off screen as well as on.
Oops, should we have put a spoiler warning there…?
9. Little Holly Wheeler is played by twins
Given ‘Stranger Things’ season 1 had a strong ‘ET’ vibe, they needed a Drew Barrymore-esque kid sister – but, in the Hollywood tradition with very young actors, Mike and Nancy’s youngest sibling Holly is in fact portrayed by identical twins, Anniston and Tinsley Price.
Given their extreme youth of the actresses (born 2012), many of their most notable moments were entirely improvised. The sisters have also appeared in ‘The Walking Dead’ and ‘The Divergent Series: Allegiant.’
10. The Upside Down originally had a different name
Much as it’s hard to imagine ‘Stranger Things’ under any other title, it’s hard to imagine its shadowy alternate dimension The Upside Down being referred to as anything else. However, as revealed in the Netflix discussion panel show ‘Beyond Stranger Things,’ the scripts for season 1 did not call it this.
Originally, it was officially named The Nether, with the Upside Down initially intended to be a throwaway description used by the kids (Eleven explains it by turning over a Dungeons and Dragons board). However, the Upside Down stuck, hence it continues to be used in ‘Stranger Things’ season 2.