The Creators Of ‘Stranger Things’ Were Rejected At Least 15 Times Before Netflix Said Yes

Senior Writer
08.04.16 4 Comments

With as much as people are talking about Netflix’s newest hit series, Stranger Things, it isn’t difficult to foresee a great future for the show’s creators, Matt and Ross Duffer. In fact, executive producer Shawn Levy has done nothing but rave about the twin brothers, telling The Hollywood Reporter last month that it took him 10 minutes to realize that “these were future major guys.” Are they the next Phil Lord and Chris Miller? The next Russo brothers? The first Duffer brothers? Time will tell, but if the second season of Stranger Things earns anything close to the buzz that this first season delivered, these guys will be household names.

As it turns out, though, Levy’s easy decision to board Stranger Things as executive producer and a director wasn’t the first shot the Duffers had at pitching their idea. They wrote Stranger Things after working on Hidden and Wayward Pines — the latter of which introduced them to their mentor, M. Night Shyamalan – and decided that they could tell their story as an eight-hour movie. As they told Rolling Stone, HBO and Netflix were ideal platforms, but they also tried to sell networks on this acclaimed science fiction thriller.

Matt estimates the brothers were rejected 15 to 20 times by various networks, while other execs had balked at the idea that the show featured four kids as lead characters but that it wasn’t TV for children. “You either gotta make it into a kids show or make it about this Hopper [detective] character investigating paranormal activity around town,” one told them. Matt recalls replying, “Then we lose everything interesting about the show.” Some other people they knew in the industry understood their vision and helped connect them with Netflix. “There was a week where we were like, ‘This isn’t going to work because people don’t get it,'” Matt says. (Rolling Stone)

Levy says his 21 Laps VP Dan Cohen told him that he had to “meet these boys” and read their script, and once he did, he knew that Cohen had found a “great diamond in the rough.” From that point, Levy says he knew that Netflix was the only place for Stranger Things.

Literally Netflix was the first buyer we pitched to. By the next morning they bought the season. They were the first pitch because they were our first choice. A big part of that is the Duffers are new and emerging filmmakers and they really didn’t want the show to conform to increasingly obsolete notions of what is TV. They always spoke of it as an eight hour movie. It’s why they laid hands on every script. It’s why we directed all of them ourselves. We wanted a continuity of authorship. And Netflix was our dream home because A) they genuinely empower creative, that’s their rep and it’s the truth, and B) we wanted people to have the option of watching a big chunk of episodes in a row without having to wait. (Variety)

As Levy also said in his THR interview, they fully expected people to binge-watch Stranger Things, because it is “deeply addictive.” That is absolutely correct, so let’s chill with the victory lap and get to work on season two now, please and thank you.

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