Writer suing the Duffer Brothers for allegedly stealing the idea for Stranger Things

Stranger Things is a very popular show on Netflix about a small Indiana town beset by otherworldly horrors from beyond the razor-thin veil separating our reality from the next, all of it started by hubristic scientists so consumed with what they could do they didn’t stop to think whether they should. It’s the brainchild of Matt and Ross Duffer, who fill the show with heart, charm and abundant references to the 1980s.

OR IS IT? According to writer Charlie Kessler, the Duffer Brothers stole the idea for Stranger Things from him when he pitched them on a sci-fi show set near an abandoned military base at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival. Kessler is suing the pair for breach of implied contract, but the Duffers’ lawyer, Alonzo Wickers, is on the case. Per The Hollywood Reporter, Wickers recently filed a motion for summary judgment, and he’s clearly having none of it:

Charlie Kessler asserts that he met the Duffers, then two young filmmakers whom Kessler never had heard of, and chatted with them for ten to fifteen minutes. That casual conversation — during which the Duffers supposedly said that they all ‘should work together’ and asked ‘what [Kessler] was working on’ — is the sole basis for the alleged implied contract at issue in this lawsuit and for Kessler’s meritless theory that the Duffers used his ideas to create Stranger Things.

Basically, Wickers argues that a few minutes of cocktail conversation doesn’t amount to a contract, and that even if it did, it wouldn’t matter because the Duffers had the ideas for Stranger Things years earlier and were already scouting locations when they talked to Kessler in 2014, just two years before the show premiered on Netflix. Wickers backs this up with emails from 2010 that detail a show set in the ’80s featuring a secret underground research facility, unethical experiments and a monster coming through a portal, all things that should sound familiar to Stranger Things fans. Another email, sent shortly thereafter, mentions children who were experimented on and who are capable of things like mind control and telekinesis, which sounds like Eleven and some of the other kids in her program.

Wickers is asking the judge to throw the case out, and unless Kessler has some really strong arguments in his favor, I don’t see how that doesn’t happen. Looking at Kessler’s IMDb page, he did write a short film called Montauk, all about allegedly skeevy government experiments that went down at the Montauk Air Force Station in Long Island, New York. Stranger Things also draws inspiration from the Montauk conspiracy theories — its original name was supposedly Montauk — but Kessler’s short film came out in 2011, three years before he met the Duffers and one year after the brothers wrote those emails showing that they were already thinking about the ideas that would blossom into Stranger Things.

So basically, I don’t think Kessler is going to get a payout anytime soon. But wouldn’t it be funny if he showed up as a writer for season 3?

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