Millie is to be featured in the new issue of Variety magazine. I will be adding digital scans soon.
How ‘Stranger Things’ Star Millie Bobby Brown Made Eleven ‘Iconic’ and Catapulted Into Pop Culture
“I’ve never seen that in a child actor.”
It’s almost a mantra for anyone who’s worked with Millie Bobby Brown.
Whether it’s “Stranger Things” executive producer Matt Duffer praising her on-set technical knowledge, co-star David Harbour extolling her emotional intelligence or casting director Sarah Finn explaining why she selected her for the next installment in the “Godzilla” film franchise — even the most seasoned industry pro marvels at the young actor’s preternatural ability.
Brown, now just 13, has never trained professionally as an actor. Never gone to acting school. Never taken a class. She simply decided at age 8 she wanted to be on-screen, and her parents obliged, moving her and her siblings from Bournemouth in England to Orlando, Fla., to allow her to pursue her dream.
“It was like a bug,” she says. “I know this sounds crazy, but once I find something I want to do, nobody’s stopping me. If I don’t know how to sew, and I really had that passion to sew, that’s it, I’m going to sew. That’s also with acting. So here I am.”
Her path to stardom wasn’t immediate: She secured a few guest star spots here and there, in shows like “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland,” “Modern Family” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” She got turned down for “Logan,” which eventually went to Dafne Keen. But it was the role of Eleven in Netflix’s sleeper hit that catapulted her to fame.
“I felt at one point I couldn’t do it [anymore], but then I got this and everything changed,” she says over a mid-afternoon soda break at the London hotel in West Hollywood. Now, “acting is like breathing to me.”
To say the past year of her life has been a roller coaster would imply that there have been dips. In fact, it’s been nothing but a steady climb since the July 2016 bow of “Stranger Things.” Her Instagram followers ballooned from 25 to 4.2 million; the cast won best ensemble at the SAG Awards and best drama at the PGA Awards; and she claimed her own trophy at the MTV Movie & TV Awards for best actor in a TV show, with an emotional acceptance speech that won her even more accolades for its honesty. And with season two of “Stranger Things” now streaming (it debuted Oct. 27), she just wrapped production on the next installment of the “Godzilla” franchise opposite Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga and Thomas Middleditch. (“You’ll find out in two years,” she jokes about her secret role in the film, which is slated for a 2019 release.)
Then there’s that Emmy nomination for supporting actress in a drama. “It was a true honor and privilege to be representing the young generation,” she says. Although she went home on Emmy night empty-handed, she took things in stride, happy to simply enjoy the evening out with her merry band of co-stars.
“I’m leery of blowing too much smoke up her already well-filled smoke ass,” says Harbour, who plays Chief Hopper on the Netflix hit. “Because I do feel that when I’m in the nursing home, I would like to be able to watch movies with her in her 30s and have her become Meryl Streep. She has the potential for that to happen.”
It was all about the Look.
Fans of “Stranger Things” know it well: when Eleven lowers her chin and glares defiantly at whoever — or whatever — is in her path.
It was in her audition for the role that she came up with that intense laser-beam stare — and nailed the part. She was 11 at the time.
“I’ve never forgotten it, because it was so intuitive,” recalls executive producer Shawn Levy. “That this little person had such fierce power — that’s what took me aback. That same day the Duffers [brothers Matt and Ross, who created the show] and I knew she was the one.”
In the “Stranger Things” universe, Eleven — so-called because of the tattoo she wears — is a product of psychological experiments by Dr. Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine) that infused her with telekinetic abilities, among other supernatural powers. Because of her years of isolation under Brenner’s watch, her vocabulary is rather limited. (One fan counted: Her dialogue amounts to just under 250 words in the whole first season.)
Brown wasn’t intimidated by the role of Eleven being mostly nonverbal. “You can talk with your face,” she says matter-of-factly. “It’s very easy for someone to say, ‘I’m mad. I’m sad. I’m angry.’ I have to just do it with my face.”
Nor did she mind shaving her head. Brown’s parents were more against it than she was, but it helped that “Mad Max: Fury Road” was out at the time. Matt Duffer recalls persuading her with the argument “Doesn’t Charlize look badass? You’re going to look badass too.”
What did cause a bit of on-set drama was The Kiss — the moment when Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven smooch in the season-one finale. For all of her remarkable self-possession, the little girl that’s still in Brown reveals itself when she recounts the moment — her first kiss ever. “It was a strange experience. Having 250 people looking at you kissing someone is like, ‘Whoa!’” she says.
Further complicating matters, it seems there’s some debate over whether it was Wolfhard’s first smooch as well. “He says I wasn’t, but I definitely think I was,” she says. “I think he was just trying to be cool.”
As for how those awkward teenage moments play out in the second season, “No comment,” say the Duffer Brothers.
“My character’s just so, so perfect for me,” says Millie Bobby Brown. “I definitely think that we relate to each other a lot.”