It’s a cloudy day in Atlanta, Millie Bobby Brown is bleeding from the nose, and an automobile has been violently flipped over. “There’s a car,” Brown says, psyching herself up between takes, “and I’m going to move it with my brain.”
This was the sight I took in when Collider visited the set of Stranger Things season 3. And when I say “set”, I mean the Starcourt, an actual down-on-its-luck mall just outside the city that the show’s production took over, infused with a healthy dose of neon lights, and transformed into a bustling life-size shopping center straight out of 1985. Trust me, walking into the Starcourt Mall felt like stepping out of Doc Brown’s DeLorean; the attention to detail put in by the set decoration and props team is absurd, down to period-specific Burger King signage, the “Now Playing” line-up on the movie marquee (The Stuff!), and, of course, actual New Coke cans littering the tables. And while I can’t tell you what exactly caused that car to get flipped over in the first place, I can say that, in typical Hawkins, Indiana fashion, something supernatural has once again made its way into town.
Luckily, there is a ton I can tell you after walking around the Starcourt Mall set and chatting with cast members Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink, Gaten Matarazzo, Joe Keery, Maya Hawke, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Priah Ferguson, and Dacre Montgomery. Here are more than 20 plot details and behind-the-scenes tidbits to know about Stranger Things season 3.
“I think the sound bite that I would give you is, you can expect a hell of a lot more of Billy this season,” Dacre Montgomery told us.
- This season also features flashbacks to Billy’s childhood, with a 12-year-old actor playing younger Billy.
- Montgomery told us about an insane “25-page scene” with Millie Bobby Brown and a few of the other kids that director Shawn Levy shot over four days. It apparently felt like a closed set because the location was so contained, the crew so small, and the scene so intense.
Season 3 is also the first season set during the summer, which mostly means the shortest-shorts you could possibly imagine and a lot of time spent at a new Stranger Things location, the Hawkins public pool, where Billy is a lifeguard.
- The Starcourt Mall is largely the focal point of the season, setting-wise. It’s the brand new addition to Hawkins and while the kids love it for a hangout spot, small local businesses have been forced to shut down all across the town, causing tension with the locals.
- “The mall was an enormous task,” production designer Chris Trujillo told us. The actual mall was built in 1983 and had been slowly falling into disrepair in recent years. The funny thing is that part of the mall is still open and functioning; shoppers were strolling around unaware that it was literally 1985 just on the other side of a curtain.
The movies playing at the Starcourt are Back to the Future, The Stuff, Return to Oz, Cocoon, D.A.R.Y.L., and Fletch. During an early episode, an important plot-point happens during a sneak peek of George A. Romero‘s Day of the Dead.
- The movie theater facade was built completely by the set dec team. In actuality, there’s a BeautyMaster behind it, one of the last shops in that part of the mall that is actually still open and operating in real life.
- One of the only stores at the mall that doesn’t actually exist is Kaufman Shoes, a shout-out to Invasion of the Bodysnatchers remake director Philip Kaufman. That store plays a pivotal role in the plot late in the season.
- Bodysnatchers actually came up the most when the cast and crew were discussing inspirations for season 3. Charlie Heaton noted that the usual references like E.T. and The Goonies didn’t so much inspire this season as much as “darker, scarier” material like Sam Raimi‘s Evil Dead.
- Definitely the two most unexpected films that came up while discussing inspiration? Mr. Mom and China Syndrome.