Stranger Things, whose third season is due in July, has always felt like it came from the ’80s, but it’s a general vibe; it wasn’t like it actually ripped off E.T., The Goonies, Gremlins, Explorers, etc. Still, creators Matt and Ross Duffer have been accused by at least one person of theft. We’ve long known about the charge made by filmmaker Charlie Kessler, who claims they stole a project he pitched at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival. The Duffer brothers have denied this. But on Wednesday a Los Angeles superior court denied summary judgment against Kessler, stating they’ve failed to prove his claims hold no water.
What does that mean for the Duffers? As per a Hollywood Reporter account, it means they’re probably going to trial.
Kessler’s lawsuit charges that Stranger Things was swiped from a film script he’d written called The Montauk Project, in which “various urban legends, and paranormal and conspiracy theories” crop up in a Long Island town, after meeting at the film festival. (Stranger Things is set in Hawkins, Indiana, though, interestingly, the original working title was Montauk.) The Duffers allegedly told Kessler that, due to their shared affinity for such fare, they “should work together.”
Kessler is looking for a third of the show’s profits. The Duffers have maintained they came up with their Netflix juggernaut independently. This doesn’t mean the Duffers are guilty; instead it demonstrates that they could be, and that their previous claims that Kessler’s allegations have zero merit was a bit off. The trial will likely begin in early May.
Of note is an aside towards the bottom of THR’s report, which states that the Duffers are seeking to seal portions of the trial away from media scrutiny, for fear of “confidential information” being leaked, including spoilers.
The Duffers were once accused of stealing ideas from a former roommate for the 2015 film Hidden.