‘Stranger Things’: The Duffer Brothers’ Original Pitch Notes for the Show Had Some Major Changes

Stranger Things Season 4 debuts in the summer of 2022, but that makes three long years of no new content about our favorite folks from Hawkins, Indiana. Fans have watched the characters grow over the years. Some were concerned by the time season 4 rolled around, the actors would be too old for their roles. 

Thankfully, it looks like showrunners the Duffer Brothers made it work. However, that’s not to say there haven’t been some significant changes from the original pitch the Duffers gave way back before the show premiered in 2016. Here are some major changes the creators made to characters and the storyline to bring fans the series they love.

Ross and Matt Duffer, creators of 'Stranger Things,' stand in front of a 'Stranger Things 3' step and repeat while wearing suits.
Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer attend the “Stranger Things” Season 3 World Premiere | Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Netflix

‘Stranger Things’ was initially named ‘Montauk’

Before it was Stranger Things, it was Montauk, and it was much darker than what folks watched on Netflix. It still involved kids, government science experiments, and monsters, but it sounds like the pitch leaned much harder into horror. Plus, instead of the kids traveling to the Upside Down, the original story involves the Upside Down actually taking over the town audiences now know as Hawkins.

The pitch explains, “Over the course of the series, the ‘tear’ or ‘rip’ that separates their world from ours will begin to spread over Montauk like a supernatural cancer. This cancer will manifest itself in increasingly bizarre paranormal ways. Electrical fields will be disrupted. Strange fungi will to grow on structures and people. A heavy fog will drift in from the Atlantic. The temperature will plummet. Food will rot. Gravity will fluctuate. People will glimpse bizarre entities in their homes and businesses. There will be an escalating number of ‘vanishings.’ The entire town will become ‘haunted’ – and in grave danger. If people can disappear … can an entire town?”

The document goes on to say the show takes inspiration from the “masters of the grotesque” like Clive Barker, Guillermo Del Toro, H.R. Giger, and Masahiro Ito. Showrunners stuck with their decision to incorporate similar vibes from movies like E.T. and Jaws, but Stranger Things Season 1 seemingly held back on some of the horror aspects.

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The character descriptions and details varied from what fans eventually saw in ‘Stranger Things’

It’s relatively well-known the Duffer Brothers softened some of the harsh edges of Steve Harrington. In his original version, Steve was much worse. However, Joe Keery, the actor who plays Steve, came off as so likable the showrunners decided to keep him around and make some changes to the character.

Initially, the pitch described Mike as “a cute kid, but a birthmark on his left cheek leads to much bullying and near-crippling anxiety.” Lucas had “wealthy parents in the midst of a costly divorce” who constantly argued with one another, while Dustin was “King Geek” and wore “oversized glasses.”

As for other characters, the Duffers originally introduced Terry Ives as “an anti-social hermit and movie theater projectionist with the looks of a serial killer.” That sounds more like the character of Murray Baumann instead of the Terry Ives fans know as Eleven’s mother.

The Duffer Brothers originally planned for ‘Montauk’ to be more like a mini-series

The creators of Stranger Things initially planned for their work to be a stand-alone series – essentially an eight-hour movie. The show ended without a cliffhanger and tied up all the loose ends. 

Thankfully, Netflix realized the potential for the series. Now, the series tops Netflix’s charts, and fans exist worldwide.

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