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Stranger Things debuted its blockbuster third season over a year ago, and fans are still left with big questions about the aftermath of the climactic fight to shut the gate. Hopper of course succeeded in holding off the Soviet thugs long enough for Joyce to close the gate, the result of which was the day being saved but Hopper disappearing. It was the culmination of a season's worth of attempts to get rid of the monsters, so it had to be epic, and Stranger Things second unit director and stunt coordinator Hiro Koda has explained how it really came together.
That was that was a whole entity of its own. Like I said, those sets that they build are just beautiful, man. That was a massive set; it was a massive scene. It took us, I think, four and a half days to shoot that sequence. Our actual biggest challenge that we had was just working out the schedule. We were coming to the end of the show, of the season, and so we had a lot of different things that we're trying to shoot. I was directing Second Unit on that.
Not only was the set housing the key machine and the control room massive and elaborate, but the Stranger Things team had to figure out how to schedule the necessary elements to pull off what was arguably the climax of the whole third season. There was action, there was emotion, and there was (or so it seemed at the time) the possible death of Hopper. It was a sequence that Hiro Koda and the Stranger Things team clearly had to work hard to finish.
The fight itself was intense, and Grigori had to be enough of an opponent to Hopper that it made sense that Hopper wouldn't be able to get to safety before Joyce had to shut the gate and seemingly kill him. The fight took too long for him to rejoin Joyce, and it took too much out of him to do much running or jumping to try and get there anyway. Of course, the machine going haywire after Hopper threw Grigori into it didn't exactly help his odds of making it back to safety!
Hopper held his own and Grigori lost, but at great cost to the good guys in Hawkins. After all, even if Hopper survived, all his friends and Eleven think he's dead! Hiro Koda elaborated on coordinating the action between David Harbour and Andrey Ivchenko that had to look so epic and intense, saying:
And so I had David and Andrey on my unit shooting, and then David would have to leave halfway through the day and go to First Unit shoots. Then we'd have to finish out our day with Andrey. Andrey was with us the whole time. Amazing, amazing man, and he just worked his ass off. But he would spend the first half of the day with David and then he would have to work out the rest of the day with the stunt doubles. Both the stunt doubles and David and Andrey all did an amazing job with that sequence. Again with that, they had several meetings.
David Harbour had a key role in the full third season of Stranger Things and evidently couldn't spent the full four-and-a-half days filming the climactic fight sequence. Stranger Things did a good job of hiding whenever Harbour was replaced by his stunt double, and Harbour was in front of the camera for all the pivotal moments that required an emotional reaction. Kudos to Andrey Ivchenko, though, since Hiro Koda revealed that he spent four full days on the sequence!
Hiro Koda also shared that a lot of thought went into the fight, not just punches and kicks for the sake of punches and kicks. In fact, part of the fight was designed to delight fans of the Indiana Jones franchise courtesy of Matt and Ross Duffer, as promised before the season even premiered. Koda explained:
I met with the Duffer Brothers so many times and went to the set, talked through my ideas that I wanted to throw in there, and they gave me their ideas. I mean, they had a throwback to Raiders of the Lost Ark and things like that with the way some of the fighting was going to happen in there. Then to be able to bring their vision to the screen, I had to keep that storyline going. With that, I shot a pre-vis with my stunt doubles, took it to [the Duffers] and they took a look at it and said things that they liked, what they didn't like, and we would go back there again and walk the sequence and talk through it. So it was nice to have that time to walk through and prep and be ready to rehearse for it before we shot it.
The homage to Raiders of the Lost Ark in the final fight between Hopper and Grigori wasn't quite as clear as the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade throwback with Steve and Robin in Season 3, but anybody who had seen Raiders a few times before Stranger Things' third season likely noticed some similarities between Hopper vs. Grigori in front of the open key machine and Indiana Jones vs. Nazi thug in front of a moving plane.
Like Indy vs. the Nazi, the fight went down in a very dangerous place with the female lead watching from afar, and more than a little of the choreography was reminiscent of Raiders of the Lost Ark, although it wasn't a blow-for-blow reenactment. Fittingly, the Stranger Things fight also ended with Grigori dying after being thrown into the active device, just like Indy's Nazi opponent died in the propeller of a plane. Of course, Indy survived to rescue Marion and chase the Ark, whereas Hopped seemed quite possibly dead until the post-credits sequence gave fans reason to hope.
Unfortunately, fans may be waiting a while before Season 4 makes its Netflix debut, but they can always rewatch the first three seasons available streaming now. For some additional options now and in the not-too-distant future, check out our summer 2020 premiere schedule! For more of what Hiro Koda has to say about the entertainment industry and stunt coordination, you can find the full [email protected] panel featuring Koda, called "The Art of Collaboration," streaming now!