EXCLUSIVE: Following the record-breaking release of the two final episodes of Stranger Things’ Season 4, creators Matt & Ross Duffer have formed Upside Down Pictures and recommitted to Netflix with several new projects. To run Upside Down, they’ve hired Hilary Leavitt, a vet of BBC America and MRC who most recently ran her own Hulu-based Blazer banner. Series she helped develop include Orphan Black, Ozark, The Great and Shining Girls.
Borrowing the company name from their juggernaut series, The Duffers will continue to lean into the formula that has been a propulsive force in Stranger Things. The brothers said the new company will be guided by the goal to create the kind of stories that inspired them growing up, “stories that take place at that beautiful crossroads where the ordinary meets the extraordinary, where big spectacle co-exists with intimate character work, where heart wins out over cynicism.”
While their first order of business will be settling the epic good vs evil battle between Eleven and Vecna in Stranger Things‘ final season, the Duffers and Netflix have expanded their slate of projects for the future. They now include:
- A new live action series adaptation of Death Note, the Japanese manga and anime series originally written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. The original focuses on a bright teenager who discovers a mysterious black notebook that gives him supernatural power over life and death, the latter caused by writing a person’s name in the book. The teen becomes intoxicated with power as he decides to cleanse the world of undesirables, as a law enforcement team tries to stop him. Netflix made a film adaptation in 2017, but this will be an entirely new take.
- An original series from creators Jeffrey Addiss and Will Matthews (Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance).
- A series adaptation of Stephen King and Peter Straub‘s 1984 novel The Talisman which the Duffers will craft alongside Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment and Paramount Television. Created by Stranger Things’ Co-EP and writer Curtis Gwinn, The Talisman tells the story of a young man who moves between New Hampshire and an alternate world called ‘The Territories’ to obtain an artifact that will save his mother’s life. While The Talisman shares otherworldly qualities with Stranger Things, “It’s much more fantasy. It has sci-fi. It has horror elements. It has a lot of heart. It has everything that we love. And it’s got the best werewolf character I think, ever,” Matt Duffer told Deadline in yesterday’s in-depth interview.
- A new stage play set within the world and mythology of Stranger Things, produced by prolific UK-based stage producer Sonia Friedman, Stephen Daldry and Netflix. Daldry, whose credits include The Crown, Billy Elliot and The Reader, will also direct. 21 Laps will serve as Associate Producer. The play will be written by Kate Trefry.
- The aforementioned live-action Stranger Things spin-off series for Netflix, based on an original idea by The Duffer Brothers, with Upside Down and 21 Laps producing.
All this comes after Stranger Things 4 topped Netflix’s all-time most popular English TV list with 1.15 billion hours viewed in its first 28 days, making it only the second series to cross the billion mark for the streamer. That number will be higher when the two Volume 2 season ender episodes are counted when they reach the 28-day viewing period. Season 4 became the biggest premiere weekend ever for an English language TV show on Netflix with 286.79 million hours viewed. It also hit the top spot in 91 countries for the streamer, and became the most viewed season of English language TV in a single week for Netflix with 335.01 million hours viewed.
Right now, the Duffers are taking a few weeks off before they begin writing the final season of Stranger Things in August. They told Deadline that a major goal is to “stick the landing” with the final 20 minutes they have already mapped out. It primed the tear ducts of Netflix executives when the duo pitched the final season. The Duffers came out of nowhere when they arrived at Netflix — right out of college they got a Warner Bros deal for their horror film pitch Hidden and made their directing debut, and then were writers/EPs for the M. Night Shyamalan TV show Wayward Pines — so it seems a strong move for the streamer to not let them get away after such a towering success.
“Matt and Ross are an exceptionally unique talent with a vision so crisp and clear,” said Netflix co-CEO and Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos. “They are all about the details — it’s no accident that Stranger Things has pierced the zeitgeist to become the epic pop culture phenomenon it is today. We’re excited to continue telling new stories with them as they grow Upside Down Pictures and to welcome Hilary as creative partner.”
The Duffers sparked to Leavitt to handle all this development volume as they focus on finishing the series.
“It didn’t take long into our first meeting with Hilary, where we bonded over films like Jaws, Home Alone, and Speed, to know we had found a kindred spirit,” the Duffers said in a statement. “Hilary’s passion for storytelling is perhaps matched only by her passion for the storytellers themselves, for whom she is fiercely protective. No wonder so many writers and directors are drawn to working with her. She is a rare talent indeed, and we feel extremely grateful to have her at our side as we build Upside Down Pictures.”
Said Leavitt: “I remember the first movie I saw in the theater, the first VHS tape I got for Christmas, the first international one-sheet I bid for on eBay because it was cooler than the domestic. And the first time I met Matt and Ross. All of these seminal moments have led to this ridiculously cool opportunity to build a company with the Duffer Brothers where we produce movies and television because we love movies and television. This love is at the core of Upside Down Pictures, where we’re able to collaborate with other artists on projects across the full spectrum of genre. We all love what we do and are excited to do more and more.”
The Duffer Brothers are repped by CAA and Yorn Levine’s Alex Kohner.
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