From her signature buzzcut hair, to her astounding telekinetic powers, and all the way to her undeniable hunger for all things Eggos, Stranger Things‘ Eleven had all the makings of an instantly iconic character as soon as she stepped on screen.
It didn’t hurt that Stranger Things was all but immediately a breakout global sensation, toeing the line between mainstream smash hit and cult favorite with uncanny precision. Add to it the fact that Eleven was played by the utterly captivating and talented beyond her years Millie Bobby Brown, and it’s no wonder that Eleven stands as the most prominent character in a series full of richly imagined ones.
Yet for as amazingly electric as Eleven may be, after season one, we don’t actually know a whole lot about her. Season two sheds a little more light on that matter, including some information about her origins and her destiny, but on the whole, she’s a character shrouded in mystery who will probably stay that way for the foreseeable future.
Curious to learn more about this pint size preternatural wonder? Here are the 15 Things You Never Knew About Eleven. And just to warn you, this post does contain some big spoilers for season 2, so proceed with caution.
15. From The Ashes, She Rises
The comparisons between Eleven and X-Men regular Jean Grey are heavily foreshadowed from the beginning of the series. When Will requests a copy of X-Men #134, eagle-eyed X-Men fans everywhere know exactly what issue that refers to: Jean Grey’s transformation into the menacingly powerful Dark Phoenix.
With telepathic and telekinetic gifts in common, along with many serious sources of trauma and unbridled pain and rage, Eleven and Jean Grey are markedly similar characters. Yet, it’s not until the season two finale that Stranger Things fully embraces this connection, allowing Eleven a moment all her own in which she, in effect, becomes the phoenix.
Decked out in her new all black punk look and levitating among the flames due to her psychic prowess and energy, Eleven vanquishes the Mind Flayer and the Demodogs back behind the Gate which she seals through the use of all her powers.
14. Ancient Origins For The Light Side And The Dark Side
Religious allegories are particularly common in certain kinds of science fiction media, and apparently, Stranger Things is no exception to the trend. Yet, while most stories refer to Biblical allusions, Stranger Things opts for more surprising sources from antiquity.
In the history of Israel, the god El is considered equivalent with the supreme god Yahweh, the almighty god in the traditional Jewish faith.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, in the middle ages, the word Demogorgon was used to refer to savage demonic creatures. The word is used in works such as John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, and Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.
As if Eleven and the Demogorgon’s battle to end all battles weren’t already shocking enough, it now turns out that the battle between light and dark was waged on a much larger cosmological and religious scale.
13. One Of Her Scenes Was Cut Due To An Accent Mistake
With a Netflix series, it’s always harder to find out what didn’t make the final cut of a show. Notoriously secretive about their business procedures, and with DVD sets that never include special features, viewers aren’t privy to the same behind the scenes information that are available from any network or cable series.
Thanks to Brown’s appearance at a convention, however, we know about one sweet scene that got left behind on the cutting room floor. While Eleven wanders around in Nancy’s room, she stumbles across her diary and reads a passage that says “I love Steve. Uccch.”
Except, in the process of filming, Brown read the line as “Steve loves Nancy. Ugh…” all while maintaining her British accent. Thus, the scene was left behind, leaving Eleven clearly more oblivious of romantic relationships.
12. A Furious Hairspiration
There’s no denying that, over the course of two seasons, Eleven has had some pretty definitively iconic looks. Whether it’s her cutesy blonde wig, or the all natural brown curls, or the punk-inspired look she sports in the end of season 2, Eleven is all kinds of recognizable and fashion-inspiring. Yet her most signature style, her close-cropped buzz hair of season one, is the style that Brown (and her family) required the most convincing about.
The Duffer Brothers turned to a familiar genre face to make that look a reality: “When Millie auditioned, she had long brown hair down past her shoulders. But Eleven was written as having hair ‘buzzed almost to the scalp.’ Millie and her parents were understandably hesitant to chop it all off. Would it look ugly? Would it cost her other roles?”
“Fortunately, Mad Max: Fury Road was about to come out, so we pulled out a magazine photograph of Charlize Theron as Furiosa and showed it to Millie. ‘Charlize looks totally bada**, right?’ Millie agreed; Charlize looked badass. And that was it: She agreed to buzz it all off. When the day of the haircut finally arrived, Millie’s mom brought out a camcorder, while her dad ran away with tears in his eyes, unable to watch. It was a pretty dramatic scene,” they said.
11. A Darker Beginning
A crucial part of Eleven’s success as a character is just how adorable and sympathetic she really is. Despite the fact that she was all but manufactured as a miniature killing machine, her traumatic upbringing and angelic innocence make her impossible not to root for.
However, in original versions of the script, Eleven was initially a whole lot darker and a lot more violent. According to Ross Duffer, “The Eleven character, the kind of powers she has and to have a young protagonist that’s violent — it’s not E.T. It’s not a happy situation. She’s killing people, and brutally murdering them. The original pilot was much more violent. It was originally like an R-rated thing.”
10. Not So Secret Skills
Just as Eleven was originally a much more violent killing machine, the powers she wields weren’t meant to be teased out over the course of the season. In season one as it stands, viewers are slowly guided into the reveal of her powers.
This ranged from scenes in which she turns off a fan that’s annoying her with her mind, to the way she slams a door shut in the same manner, and finally the way she brutally snaps cruel agents’ necks and explodes their brains all without lifting a finger.
However, according to Matt Duffer, “In the original script we sold to Netflix, she was hunted by the agents, she exploded a door off its hinges [in the first episode]. It was pretty extreme right away. As soon as we started mapping out the season and realized we had eight hours, we started to scale it back.”
9. Millie Bobby Brown’s Universal Acclaim
We’ve already discussed how Eleven would be nowhere near as captivating as she is if it weren’t for the immensely talented Millie Bobby Brown portraying her. This fact is one that is also recognized far and wide within the industry, if nominations and award wins are anything to go by.
For her portrayal of the tortured heroine, the tweenage Millie Bobby Brown received an Emmy nomination in the category of Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. She was also nominated for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series.
In addition to these nominations, Brown has taken home two notable awards for her turn, the MTV Movie & TV Award for Best Actor in a Show and the Saturn Award for Best Younger Actor in a Television Series.
8. Who Runs The World? Little Girls, Apparently
Unlikely heroes of even more unlikely origins has always been a recurring motif in works of literature, film, and television. A virtual nobody often goes up against the greater evils in the world and emerges victorious, the under dog overwhelming all the odds because good always wins. In certain kinds of science fiction, however, this trend has become even more specific.
In works such as Stranger Things, The Last of Us, and Firestarter, the fate of humanity (or, at least, a sizable population) rests on the shoulders of a very young, very special little girl.
With Eleven’s powers and her ability to defeat the otherworldly Demogorgon and Mind Flayer, Ellie’s offering hope of a cure in a post-apocalyptic world, and Charlie’s abilities leading to a future in which children won’t be experimented on so cruelly, these little girls are consistently given the opportunities to prove that they just might be the world’s only hope after all.
7. Eleven’s First Kiss Was Brown’s First Kiss, Too
Kissing on screen is always awkward for actors of all ages. Given the level of surveillance and choreography that goes into filming one simple little kiss, it’s hardly ever an enjoyable experience for anyone involved. Now, imagine that scenario and add to it the fact that the kiss is your very first kiss ever. How awkward would that be?
For Finn Wolfhard and Millie Bobby Brown, that experience isn’t something they have to imagine, but rather, the complete truth. When Mike impulsively pecks Eleven on the lips in the season one finale, a stunned Eleven stares back at him with a blush and widened eyes. As it turns out, it wasn’t just Eleven who experienced her first kiss then, but Brown, as well.
And, according to Wolfhard, Brown wasn’t exactly impressed: “After it happened and the directors shouted, ‘CUT!’ everyone started clapping, and Millie just got up and was like, ‘THAT’S kissing?! That’s it? That sucked!’”
6. Brown Had No Idea What She Was Really Auditioning For
The use of generated fake scenes for auditions isn’t exactly something new in the film and television industry. Sometimes, it’s to get a feel for a character in a similar role from an established film or show, or to see how they handle the kinds of words they would be responsible for saying.
Other times, it’s due to confidentiality reasons: faked scenes prevent spoilers about highly anticipated projects from leaking out, and also ensure that any potential spoiler leaks can be traced back to a specific source, based on the false information. In the case of Millie Bobby Brown, it sounds like both applied.
In the newly released glimpses we have of Brown’s audition tapes, we see a much more vocal and openly emotional Eleven than the one viewers are accustomed to in the first season.
Openly crying and informing someone that they cannot see someone and that she saw someone else, it’s clear that the overall tone of a paranoid, traumatized child was still in tact, despite the fact that the scenes themselves had nothing to do with what the series would become.
5. Brown Doesn’t Actually Like Eggos
Although there are plenty of love stories worth rooting for in Stranger Things (Jonathan and Nancy, Max and Lucas, and maybe even Hopper and Joyce), everybody knows that the true love story at the heart of the series is the one between Eleven and the world’s best frozen breakfast food, Eggos.
Her passionate hunger for the frozen waffles leads to scenes across both seasons that are equal parts humorous, heartwarming, and just plain sad.
However, despite the intensity of Eleven’s Eggo love, it turns out that this is just another way in which Brown’s acting talent truly shines. In reality, Millie Bobby Brown isn’t much of a fan of them.
4. Extra-terrestrial Inspiration
Given the level of fidelity in its representation of the 1980s, it’s no real surprise that Stranger Things drew much of its inspiration from one of the biggest classics to come out of the early ’80s: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
E.T. and Eleven share markedly similar stories, even if their species couldn’t be more different. Both fish out of water who find themselves taken in by awkward preteens, the highly powered duo find themselves in increasingly similar situations.
Ranging from being hidden among toys and blankets, to being forced into a wig and dress against their initial will, and the fact that they’re chased by all kinds of law enforcement and government agencies, the two characters are clearly kindred spirits. What’s more, in creating Eleven in E.T.’s image, the Duffer Brothers produced a truly beautiful love letter to everyone’s favorite alien.
3. Anime Origins
While Eleven was influenced by one of cinema’s sweetest otherworldly figures, it turns out that some pretty dark media played a major role in the conception of her character, too. According to the Duffer Brothers, the manga series Elfen Lied and the anime film Akira were works they turned to for inspiration in developing Eleven’s role.
Elfen Lied, as described by Matt Duffer, is about “an older girl who escapes, and it’s very, very violent, she escapes and has supernatural powers. We talked about that as well, just in terms of we wanted there to be a mystery in her past, and also have her seem a little scary. and it does get very violent.”
Similarly, with Akira, the Duffers presumably drew inspiration from the likewise violent and psychically powered character Tetsuo and his resulting struggles with the sudden reality of having psychic and kinetic powers foisted upon him against his will.
2. Brown’s Auspicious Beginning
As a major part of its 1980s charm, Stranger Things repeatedly pays homage to countless Stephen King works, ranging from Stand By Me to Firestarter and beyond. The undeniable king of all things creepy in literature and film, King is clearly the perfect cultural touchstone to refer to when trying to write a story about kids growing up in the heyday of King’s pop cultural presence.
Yet, as fate would have it, long before Brown would go on to portray a character undeniably influenced by King’s oeuvre, King himself was a fan of a younger Millie Bobby Brown’s work in the short-lived BBC America series Intruders. In September 2014, Stephen King tweeted: “Millie Brown, the girl in INTRUDERS, is terrific. Is it my imagination, or are child actors a lot better than they used to be?”
1. Though She Says Little, She Is Fierce
There’s no denying that characters are often made memorable through the lines they’re given. Whether it’s a cheeky catchphrase or a profoundly emotional speech, people tend to remember characters more clearly when there are lines and quotable quotes involved. But sometimes, those who say the least are the most worth remembering.
In the case of Stranger Things, the limit of Eleven’s dialogue in season 1 is truly shocking. Over the course of eight episodes, the characters utters merely 246 words, totaling less than three minutes of her screen time.
While she’s certainly not among the ranks of some other iconic characters who never said a word, this pint size power house has nevertheless joined a category of those who have done the unthinkable by creating a lasting pop cultural hero with hardly any lines to get her there.
What other fun facts about Stranger Things‘ Eleven do you know that we missed? Let us know in the comments!
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