Matt and Ross Duffer (Wayward Pines) are taking EW behind the scenes of every single episode in their thrilling new Netflix drama, Stranger Things, an ’80s-set supernatural show starring Winona Ryder and a slew of fantastic young stars. (You can get caught up with EW’s season 1 recaps.) Here, they dive into “Chapter 7: The Bathtub”…
We originally did not have a bike chase planned for this season. It’s obviously very reminiscent of E.T., and we tried to resist the impulse, we honestly did. But we’re only human.
The van flip was a lot of fun… and very stressful. Like with the monster, we wanted to achieve the effect practically, without the use of CG. Our plan was to shoot the kids with a locked off camera as they biked across the street, and then merge that with a separate shot of a van flipping. Simple in theory — except for the part about flipping a van. We were initially told that there was no way we could flip a van of that size that high into the air. But we kept pushing, and our stubbornness eventually wore down our line producer, and he agreed to give it a try. The first parking lot test was a rousing success; explosives went off under a van, sending it rocketing high into the air. But… it was just a test. Now we had to replicate it on location with the cameras rolling. Easy, right?
Not quite. One of the explosives didn’t go off and the van skidded headfirst into one of our cameras, destroying both the camera and its lenses, and costing the production thousands of dollars. Our line producer was understandably loathe to try the stunt again, but we eventually wore him down again by promising that it would be heavily featured in the trailer (sorry, Iain — and also, thank you!). Thankfully, the second time was the charm. The van soared high into the air, our cameras captured it in all its glory, and it made the trailer, as promised.
And that crazy van flip just brings us to the title sequence! We feel a lot of affection for this episode, because it’s a little bit… bonkers. And, at least for us, it’s the most purely “fun” episode of the season. Our three disparate story lines collide as our teens, kids, and adults all finally team up. After spending six hours trying to keep these story lines separate, it was incredibly satisfying to merge them into into one. At last, we could explore new dynamics. Eleven and Joyce… Dustin and Hopper… Nancy and Eleven (“Is that my dress?” is a favorite line of ours).
If anything, this episode is also just a showcase for our three wonderful boys: Finn (Mike), Caleb (Lucas), and Gaten (Dustin). They really grew as actors over the course of the season, and we love them in this episode. But it wasn’t easy to get there. We were several months into shooting at this point, and their nervousness had at this point all but totally evaporated. The end was near, and they were getting getting relaxed, even a little cocky. “Focus!” If we got a dollar every time we said that to them, we’d be rich right now.
Understandably, Millie was getting more and more frustrated with them. Boys are just sooo immature. Case in point: We’re shooting a scene in the abandoned bus, and one of the boys decides to fart. More than once. It became so toxic in the bus that the crew had to temporarily evacuate. We had a pep talk the next day that basically boiled down to: “We’re right at the end. Don’t drop the ball. Let’s bring this home.” Generic middle school sports coach speech, we know, but it worked. After our little talk, the boys rallied together, “Focus!”-ed, and did some of their best, most emotional work on the show. We’re proud of them for so many reasons, and this is one of them. It’s such a great group of future stars. Farting aside.
Random trivia: Getting Millie to float in a kiddie pool was no special effect. We followed Mr. Clarke’s instructions to a tee: Over 1,200 pounds of epsom salt were dissolved into the kiddie pool.
The Duffer Brothers on “Chapter Eight,” the final episode of season 1 here.