The Absurd Reason ‘Stranger Things’ Almost Didn’t Get Made

Netflix has renewed Stranger Things for Season 4, although that’s not exactly a surprise. What would be surprising is if Netflix swung its cancellation axe and left us all hanging as to what happened to Hopper. 

But that was never going to happen, so season 4 it is. What is a little surprising is just how much trouble the Duffer brothers endured to even bring Stranger Things to the screen in the first place. 

The cast of Stranger Things talks with Entertainment Weekly
The cast of Stranger Things | Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for SiriusXM

‘Stranger Things’  had a long road to Netflix

If a project is not a remake, reboot or a sequel, it’s a tough sell in Hollywood. Yes, original works do get made, but unlike all the movies with cinematic universes, originals get many nos before finally getting a yes. So it goes with Stranger Things, which was turned down by no fewer than 15 networks before Netflix gave it the green light. 

“You go into these rooms and they’re so disinterested in anything you have to say before you even open your mouth. That’s when you start to feel that it’s impossible. There were moments when we thought, ‘We’re never going to break through, because no one will take us seriously,'” Matt told The Wrap, as quoted by CNBC

The Duffers finally did break through, not with Stranger Things, but with a movie called Hidden.

Although it was shot in 2011 and not released until 2015, it at least opened some doors for the Steven Spielberg/John Carpenter fans, who worked on M Night Shyamalan’s Wayward Pines. After that, they started making pitches for Stranger Things – a lot of pitches. 

The Duffers lives turn upside down

Networks kept showing the Duffers the door, saying a sci-fi TV series with kids in the lead would never sell, just as an infamous record company man told Beatles manager Brian Epstein that guitar groups were on their way out. Then the Duffers met Shawn Levy, a director largely of commercial kid-friendly hits like the Night at the Museum Movies and Real Steel. 

“They had a self-assurance that was self-evident. So, we pitched it to Netflix, and within 24 hours, we had the whole season bought,” Levy said. 

And so the world got to know Will, Mike, Lucas, Dustin and especially Eleven, played by breakout star Millie Bobby Brown. Over the course of three seasons, the show has become so well known that it’s referenced in movies like Good Boys, where we find that Stranger Things means “group of kids that travel together on bikes. 

The characters in the show are at a major crossroads, having fended off bullies, demons and other monsters, though adolescence has quite a grip on them now. The end of the third season saw many of the main characters moving to a new city, with one giant question hovering over all others: what happened to Hopper? 

What’s next for ‘Stranger Things?’

While Netflix announced Season 4 is on its way, we don’t know yet when the new shows will drop, although sometimes later in 2020 is our best guess. As CNET points out, there were 15 months between Seasons 1 and 2, and 20 months between Seasons 2 and 3, so season 4 might not arrive until 2021. We’ll have to wait a while to find out if Eleven will really be the villain or not

Having entered the zeitgeist, the Duffers not only got a deal to make season 4, they’re being paid many millions of dollars (the exact amount was not disclosed)  to develop other movies and shows. So they’ll have their hands very full. 

CNET quoted Matt Duffer as saying, “I think the biggest thing that’s going to happen is it’s going to open up a little bit,” he said. “Not necessarily in terms of scale, in terms of special effects, but open up in terms of allowing plot lines into areas outside of Hawkins.”

That’s a little obvious, but we’ll take any hints we can get. 

So don’t look now, but the Duffers have joined the club with the likes of Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, both of whom have rich deals with the streamer.