The coming of October means the binge-watching of one of my all-time favorite Halloween movies, Beetlejuice. Though I could probably recite the entire movie verbatim by now, I still love watching it at least once a week throughout the month of October, if not more! I just can’t get enough of the ghost with the most!!
In recent months, Beetlejuice has seen a bit of a resurgence in the spotlight with talks of a possible sequel coming in 2017. While I have mixed feelings about said sequel, I can’t deny the fact that I would love to see what has become of everyone’s favorite bio-exorcist. Both Michael Keaton (Beetlejuice) and Winona Ryder (Lydia Deetz) have expressed interest in joining forces with director Tim Burton to rehash Beetlejuice, however, no final concrete decisions have been made…at least not publicly.
But that got me thinking…maybe it’s about time to uncover some buried truths about the production of Beetlejuice…both for your enjoyment and mine!
So, you know the drill…say it once, say it twice, third time’s a charm!
28 Fun Facts about Beetlejuice
Screenwriter Michael McDowell’s original script for Beetlejuice was far darker and was re-written by screenwriters Larry Wilson and Warren Skaaren. The original script included much more gruesome violence and presented Beetlejuice as “a leather-winged demon whose humanoid form is that of a squat Middle Eastern man”. The Maitland’s car crash was also supposed to be much more gruesome and rather than the climatic wedding scene in the film, Beetlejuice was actually scripted to rape Lydia. Yikes!
Angelica Huston was originally cast to play Delia Deetz, but had to bow out due to an illness. Actress Catherine O’Hara initially declined Tim Burton’s offer to be in the film, but accepted after Burton flew out to meet with her and personally convinced her to accept the role.
Ironically, it was on the set of Beetlejuice where O’Hara met her eventual husband, production designer Bo Welch.
Several actresses turned down the role of Lydia Deetz, including Diane Lane, Sarah Jessica Parker, Brooke Shields, Molly Ringwald, and Jennifer Connelly. Finally it was between Juliette Lewis and Winona Ryder, Ryder finally winning the part after Burton saw her in the film Lucas.
Ryder was only 17 when filming Beetlejuice.
The title character in Beetlejuice only has 17 minutes of screen time! Keaton only spent two weeks filming his part, yet he has said time and time again that Beetlejuice is one of his favorite films to date.
The name Beetlejuice (Betelgeuse) comes from a star in the Orion constellation and is the ninth brightest star in the night sky.
The infamous dinner scene is probably what most people remember about Beetlejuice…but the scene was almost cut! The studio felt that the scene didn’t add anything to the movie. And it was actually O’Hara and her on-screen husband, Jeffery Jones, who convinced Burton to select the popular calypso song, “Day-O” as the tune played at the dinner.
When Glenn Shadix (who played the exuberant Otho) passed away at age 58 in 2010, “Day-O” was the last song played at his memorial service.
Fans of 90’s TV might remember Beetlejuice: The Animated Series (I do!). The series was actually so successful that it aired on ABC Saturday mornings, while also airing on FOX weekday afternoons, for two seasons. During its run, more than 100 episodes were produced. BONUS! If you own the special edition DVD of Beetlejuice like yours truly, you also get two free animated episodes!
There have been on-again, off-again talks about a possible Beetlejuice sequel with both Keaton and Ryder on board if and when it happens. Ma lady Katy Perry has also expressed interest in being involved in the sequel (all the more reason for this to happen, IMHO).
Though he was iconic in the role, Michael Keaton was not the first choice for Beetlejuice. The only major success he had up to that time was the comedy, Mr. Mom…and Burton originally wanted Rat Pack legend Sammy Davis Jr. as the lead role. It was producer David Geffen who suggested Keaton…and Keaton would go on to make two more movies with Burton: Batman and Batman Returns.
Thankfully, Burton left much of the character development up to Keaton, simply telling him Beetlejuice had “lived in every time period, but was of no time period”. Keaton used this creative freedom to add various elements to his character, including the crazy hair, the mold, and the false teeth…all of which were his ideas.
Keaton allegedly based some of his performance on the character Chop Top from Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.
Keaton also adlibbed many of his lines.
Beetlejuice won an Oscar for Best Makeup in 1989.
Upon hearing about the movie, both Geena Davis (Barbara Maitland) and Keaton signed on immediately.
Upon reviewing the script, Golden Age Hollywood star Sylvia Sidney was not impressed and Burton had to literally BEG her to appear as the afterlife detective, Juno. She would go on to work with Burton again on her last film, the 1996 comedy, Mars Attacks!. She passed away three years later.
Made on a modest budget in 1988, the film brought in $73 million (about $160 million today) and was the 10th biggest box office hit of the year.
Test audiences ended up liking Keaton’s portrayal of Beetlejuice so much that Burton ended up giving the character a less grim ending. Instead of being trapped inside the model town with sandworms all around him, Beetlejuice was sent to purgatory in the afterlife waiting room, where he gets to spend an eternity with this guy:
The legs of the magician’s apprentice who died by getting sawed in half were played by Tim Burton’s girlfriend at the time.
Lydia’s wedding dress is bright red in the popular wedding scene. This is a nod to the old rhyme about wedding dress colors: “Married in red, better off dead.”
When Adam and Barbara Maitland are in the afterlife waiting room, there’s a voice on the PA system that announces the arrival of Flight 409 (“Flight 409 is arriving at Gate 3.”). That is based on a true event that took place on October 6, 1955. United Airlines Flight 409 crashed into a mountain over Wyoming, killing everyone on board. Up to that point, it was the worst crash in history and still no one knows what caused the crash.
At the dinner party scene, Otho says that people who commit suicide end up as “civil servants” in the afterlife. The character Miss Argentina, who died from cutting her wrists, is shown as a receptionist at the afterlife waiting room. There are also several other office workers in that scene who have obviously committed suicide (hanging, being hit by a bus).
When being “interviewed” by the Maitland’s, Beetlejuice reveals a hideous (unseen) face to Adam and Barbara. Originally the scary face was going to be seen, including an elaborate makeup effect, but the face ultimately went unused.
The clay sculptures used to showcase Adam and Barbara’s “scary faces” took one week to create.
The skeleton head on top of Beetlejuice’s merry-go-round hat looks remarkably similar to Jack Skellington, a skeleton figure Burton had been drawing since 1982 and who would ultimately be used as the main character in The Nightmare Before Christmas, which Burton produced.
Bat wings also appear on the merry-go-round hat, a possible nod to Keaton’s next two projects with Burton, Batman and Batman Returns.
Sometimes you just need a little fun in your life! Check back every week for a new “Just Bee-cause” post, where I discuss everything from celebrity news to favorite videos and websites!