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Director Says the 'Stranger Things' Creators Stole the Show's Idea from Him

Charlie Kessler says the Duffer Brothers ripped off his pitch for a sci-fi show and then sold it to Netflix.

by River Donaghey
Apr 3 2018, 9:22pm

The Duffer Brothers are being sued by a director who claims the Stranger Things creators stole the idea for their hit Netflix show from him, TMZ reports.

The director, Charlie Kessler, says he pitched the Duffers in 2014 about a sci-fi series on the urban legend of the Montauk Project, based on his 2012 short film, Montauk, which was on Vimeo but has since been taken down after news of the lawsuit broke. According to Kessler, the Duffer Brothers initially passed on his series idea, but then turned around and sold a similar concept to Netflix.

"We've seen the most well-known [conspiracies], Area 51 and the Philadelphia Experiment, sensationalized on film and television many times before," the Duffer Brothers wrote in their original Stranger Things pitch, back when the show was called Montauk. "But the Montauk Project, one of the most bizarre conspiracies in our country's history, remains untapped."

The Montauk Project connection was lost in development, but the final version of Stranger Things still seems to share a few tenuous similarities with Kessler's original short film, like disappearing kids and buggy technology and some freaky-ass shit in the sky, but those tropes aren't exactly unique to the Montauk short to begin with. The short also features a big shot of the hulking radar tower at Montauk's Camp Hero Air Force base, which also pops up in the Duffers' original pitch document.

There are some pretty major differences between the two projects, as well. Most notably, Kessler's film is a found-footage movie set in 2010—meaning it's not the wild, 1980s nostalgia bomb that Stranger Things turned out to be. There aren't any nosebleeds, either. Plus, we have yet to see any levitating women get torn in half in Stranger Things like they do in Montauk, but, who knows, maybe the Duffer Brothers are saving that for when they want to write Winona Ryder off the show.

According to TMZ, Kessler's suit is looking for "money and destruction of all materials that were allegedly ripped off from his concept," meaning some poor intern will probably have to track down and shred a bunch of old Montauk series bibles floating around the Netflix offices if the suit ever goes through.

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