Posted on Tuesday, August 9th, 2016 by Peter Sciretta
If Stranger Things reminds you of Stephen King‘s It, it’s certainly no coincidence. And it’s not just because the Netflix television series is inspired by (and an homage to) It and the author’s other ’70s and ’80s movie adaptations. You might be surprised to learn the show itself is a result of the upcoming It movie. The Duffer Brothers created Stranger Things because Warner Bros. wouldn’t let them adapt the book themselves.
The Stranger Things It Connection
Stranger Things is chock full of Stephen King references, so much so that King himself even tweeted about it. From the title opening which features a font right out of the cover of a Stephen King novel to overt references to Firestarter, Stand By Me, Carrie, The Body, The Mist, Lisey’s Story and more.
The series references the Stephen King novel turned miniseries It in the first episode. Winona Ryder’s character Joyce Byers remembers surprising her son Will with Poltergeist tickets. She tells him that he’s allowed to watch the movie as long as he doesn’t have nightmares for a week, to which Will responds that he doesn’t “get scared like that anymore,” Joyce replies: “Oh yeah? Not even of… clowns?” — an apparent reference to It‘s iconic clown Pennywise.
The Duffer Brothers Tried to Direct the New Big-Screen Adaptation of It
But Stranger Things might never have happened if it wasn’t for the currently-in-production new big screen adaptation of It. In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the brothers were asked if they would have been interested in directing the big screen adaptation of Stephen King’s It, which is currently filming for a 2017 release. Ross Duffer admitted that he and his brother “did ask to do it” a couple of years back.
For those of you who don’t know, The Duffer Brothers‘ first screenplay was subject to a bidding war won by Warner Bros (you can read that whole story here). While working on that film, the directing duo attempted to get the job directing It. But, Matt Duffer said, the studio wasn’t interested in such an unproven quantity.
That’s why we ended up doing this because we’d asked Warner Brothers. I was like, “Please,” and they were like, “No.” This was before Cary Fukunaga. This was a long time ago.
Ross Duffer says that Cary Fukunaga got the gig “because he’s established.”
So, he got on it, and we were excited just because we’re huge fans of what he does, and one of the few people who hasn’t made a bad movie. So, that was exciting to us, but also, we were seeing trailers for True Detective, we’re like, “I kind of want to see. How do you do It in two hours? Even if you’re separating the kids, how do you do that right?” You don’t really fall in love with them the same way you’re going to when I read that book. So, how much more excited would I be if Cary Fukunaga was doing that for HBO or he was doing that for Netflix? There were a lot of different discussions we were having around this time, and a lot of it centered around how exciting TV was becoming and how cinematic it was. Certainly one of those discussions brought us back to It and how we wish it was an eight- or ten-hour miniseries.
Matt Duffer wondered if you could “be truer to the sensibilities of It if you had eight or ten hours?”
We thought that you probably could more than if you were confined to two hours. At least that’s how we made ourselves feel better about not getting the movie adaptation. We still would have done it, obviously. I’m really excited about that movie. I think it will be cool.
I’m personally glad the Duffer Brothers ended up with this television series over directing the film adaptation.
Sharing a Star
Finn Wolfhard, who plays Mike Wheeler in Stranger Things, is also playing Richie Tozier in the It movie adaptation, which is now being directed by Andrés Muschietti. Ross Duffer told IGN that they almost didn’t get to use Finn in the show because of the It casting:
When we found him, we were like “this is Mike. This is our lead boy.” We were so excited and then we get a call from someone that’s like “So bad news, Cary Fukunaga is making a movie version of It and he cast Finn in it” and they were ahead of us by a month or so, so we lost him. We were excited for Cary’s movie but we were devastated to lose Finn. Then that of course fell apart, so we got Finn back. We shot this, that movie came back and then they took Finn again.
Matt also commented that he believes Finn is “the only kid from Cary’s movie that got recast in this new version of It.”
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It’s very weird that they bumped it and moved it to the ’80s. That’s why it’s going to seem extra weird.