Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why Matthew Modine Won't Reveal The Backstory Of Stranger Things' Dr. Brenner

For all its skin-crawling monsters, bloodthirsty beasts, and fantastical horrors, the scariest villain on "Stranger Things" is perhaps its most human. Dr. Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine) slunk his way onto the hit Netflix sci-fi series' first season, where he was presented as a more black-and-white baddie. As the director of Hawkins National Laboratory, Brenner is responsible for the experiments on several child test subjects who, amongst discovering their supernatural abilities, were brought to life in the lab. These experiments not only stripped many of these children from having a fulfilling childhood but also is what would indirectly lead to the opening of the dimension that began to allow the many spine-chilling threats from the Upside Down to make their way into Hawkins. 

When we revisited Brenner in the record-breaking fourth season (via IndieWire) of "Stranger Things," his intentions became more muddled. Despite still keeping his cold and controlling demeanor, Brenner, along with Dr. Sam Owens (Paul Reiser), tried to help Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) regain her powers after she lost them to the Mind Flayer in the previous season. Seeing this somewhat more caring side to the imposing antagonist was one of the more quiet surprises presented in Season 4 and raised questions about his true goals throughout the show. As it turns out, Brenner's actor, Matthew Modine, has been able to piece together the character's backstory and morals over the years. But getting him to reveal any of that backstory — fat chance. 

Modine wants Brenner's character to speak for himself

Dr. Martin Brenner is a mysterious man and his actor, Matthew Modine, hopes to keep that illusion. In an interview with Vulture, the "Cutthroat Island" star was asked if he ever created a background for his "Stranger Things" role. After commenting that an actor should never reveal such secrets, he adds, "I never liked going to museums and having an art historian explain to me the secret behind the Mona Lisa's smile. I want to be able to look at it and experience it ... I suppose I learned that from Stanley Kubrick. You don't have to explain your creation. Let it speak for itself." The actor, whose statement references his breakout performance in Stanley Kubrick's 1987 film "Full Metal Jacket," commented on Brenner's fate following Season 4, with Modine stating that he doesn't believe that the character has died and has a chance of redemption.

So we may never know what is up with Dr. Brenner or what his true motivations are unless they decide to dive into the character more in the upcoming fifth and final season. Regardless, it's hard to picture anyone else other than Modine playing the part, which the actor surprisingly declined at first. As he tells Guardian, "I passed, but they [the Duffer Brothers] kept ringing me up and made it really difficult for me to say no. I responded to their passion and he became a really interesting, complex character."