What happened to Beetlejuice?


Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Bee-ah, that was a close one! A massive success upon release, Beetlejuice went through a strange and unusual production that saw multiple rewrites and firings, not to mention the dodging of some seriously questionable casting choices. But through the terrific performances by its cast and creative skirting around a small budget, the movie became one of the best horror-comedies ever, worthy of a sequel that has been in development hell for over three decades.

So let’s open up the handbook for the recently deceased and shake, shake, shake senora because it’s showtime! Let’s find out…WTF happened to this movie? After the huge success of

Pee Wee’s Big Adventure which brought in $40 million with a $7million budget, Tim Burton chose his next project. He knew it wasn’t going to be the talking horse movie Hot To Trot. Instead, he set his sights on the Bat-Signal, planning to adapt Batman. When that didn’t work out (yet), he found a script courtesy of David Geffen. ), he came across a script courtesy of David Geffen.That screenplay, by Michael McDowell, was titled

Beetlejuice (and that’s with two words, just as the opening credits indicate, even though the poster shows it as one). Larry Wilson was brought in to play with the screenplay before Geffen took it over. The two then took the script to Universal where he was warned that the script was “a piece of weirdness”. You’re developing into a very good executive. You have a great taste in movies. Why would you waste all that on this piece of shit?”Once Burton was hired as director, Geffen basically fired McDowell and Wilson due to “creative disagreements” in favor of teaming up with Warren Skaaren (Beverly Hills Cop II

) for more humor to be incorporated into the script. And it needed it, as McDowell’s script was dark; as in, oh, we’ll show you a car crash all right. Barbara is “wailing with pain and terror” after one covered bridge piling impales her right arm. It’s not the dog but a group mad hunters who caused the accident. Beetlejuice is a murderous asshole that wants to kill the Deetz family, not a pervert after a child wife. (OK, the final draft also was disturbing). It might not be a surprise that Wes Craven was once attached…There were other major changes made. In the original versions of Betelgeuse, he had wings, snake-like eyes, and the features a Middle Eastern male. Betelgeuse would also attack Cathy Deetz, Lydia Deetz’s younger sister. Lydia was also supposed to die in an fire. This was a creative difference!And casting could begin. Burton wanted Sammy Davis Jr., for some goddamned reason, but producers were looking for Bill Murray, Jack Nicholson and Tim Curry. They also considered Christopher Lloyd, Dudley Moore and Sam Kinison for the title role. Wilson described the character as “Groucho Marx From Hell”, which screamed

Mr. Mom

.Michael Keaton contributed greatly to the look of Betelgeuse, including the “finger in an electrical outlet” hair, nasty-ass teeth and moldy face. He even reportedly based the look in part on Choptop from TCM 2. He also had a lot of say in Betelguese’s dialogue, ad-libbing the bulk of his lines through his mere two weeks of shooting.Meanwhile, Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis would play the recently deceased Adam and Barbara Maitland. Winona Ryder was chosen to play Lydia Deetz, the proto-Hot Topic mascot. She beat out Justine Bateman and Jennifer Connelly. She also beat out Alyssa Milos, Sarah Jessica Parker and Molly Ringwald. Her performance in LUCAS sealed it for Burton. Ryder hoped the role would bring her popularity in school; instead, she was labeled a “witch” due to her look, which was inspired by the female audience at a Cure concert.

Lydia’s parents would be played by Jeffrey Jones (Charles Deetz) and Catherine O’Hara (Delia Deetz)-


wouldn’t let Kirstie Alley do it, although Anjelica Huston was closest to the role, even edging out Sigourney Weaver, Linda Hamilton and more. The supporting cast would include TV icons (Dick Cavett), crooners (Robert Goulet) and classic Hollywood stars (Sylvia Sidney).Greenlit at a $15 million budget, Beetlejuice

began production on March 11, 1987. Bo Welch, the production designer, and Tom Ackerman as cinematographer were two key contributors. They worked closely with Burton in order to create an aesthetic based on his vivid storyboards. Burton pointed to German Expressionism. Burton did not specify specific movies but rather moods and tone. Welch married Catherine O’Hara later. Exteriors were shot at East Corinth, a small Vermont town that was used to represent Winter River, Connecticut. The team discovered this location through postcards. The crew built the iconic house and covered bridge that the Maitlands drive from. The rest of the film was shot in Culver, California. The afterlife was designed to feel like an “eerie government office” with a limitless view. It sounds about right!Only $1 million was allocated for visual effects. A lot of it was practical work, such as mirror shots and stop motion. So, that decapitated Alec Baldwin. It was all a trick, with the actor hiding behind a black card. The mirror scene in which Barbara is holding a horse statue up front? The team flipped the glass so that it faced the room and moved the actors on the other side. “you’re now looking into the set, but the fireplace has been turned around and there is no mirror. “Really simple,”

said Tom Duffield, art director. But no, the sandworms were created in post-production.There was some simple trickery in the famous “Day-O” scene, too. Dick Cavett suggested Burton shoot the shot in reverse after he had trouble achieving the desired effect. Burton chose a song by the pop band The Ink Spots for the soundtrack. Jeffrey Jones is the one who deserves credit for selecting “Day-O” (The Banana Boat Song), by Harry Belafonte. This song was the key component of the scene. And to think the studio wanted to cut it (anecddotally, actor Glenn Shadix, who played Otho, had “Day-O” play at his funeral).Another terrific moment had some afterthought to it as well. The final scene, where Beetlejuice’s head is shrunk, was added to the film after production ended as a way of sending the audience out on a positive note. The other close originally had Lydia dancing to “When a Man Loves a Woman” instead of “Jump in the Line (Shake, Senora)”-what, no “Lovecats” for the Cure fans?

After the movie wrapped and the movie awaited release, Warner Bros. announced they want to rename


to House Ghosts. Burton responded with another alternative, Scared sheetless. The title, of course, would remain Beetlejuice (and Keaton only had to be in the movie for 17 minutes to secure the title! ).Retrospectively, star Alec Baldwin told GQ, “When we did

Beetlejuice, I had no idea what it was about. I thought that my career, and all of our careers, would end with the release this film. Maybe we’re all going to be dead.” But Baldwin and company would have little to worry about, as Beetlejuice opened on March 30th, 1988, at #1, going on to gross $73.7 million and become the 10th highest-grossing movie of 1988, behind Cocktail, Moonstruck and Die Hard.The soundtrack would also do remarkably well. Composed mostly of Danny Elfman’s memorable score (it also featured two Harry Belafonte songs), the soundtrack his the Billboard 200 and charted for six weeks.Beetlejuice

didn’t just fare well with critics (Pauline Kael called it a “comedy classic”) but also on the awards circuit. It won Best Horror Film at the Saturn Awards and Best Makeup with five other nominations. But its biggest accolade came at the 61st Academy Awards, where

Beetlejuice won the Best Makeup Oscar, besting Coming to America and Scrooged (we all know Keaton should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor).And its legacy hasn’t even begun to slow down. It is consistently ranked among the best horror-comedies, and the American Film Institute ranked it as the 88th most funny movie ever made. Video games were also released, including a NES game that was surprisingly good (given the property). Thirty years after Beetlejuice

What We Know About Beetlejuice 2

came out came the musical, which opened in 2018 in Washington D.C. before hitting Broadway in 2019, closing temporarily during the Covid-19 pandemic before officially bowing in 2023. In the title role was Alex Brightman, who also voiced the character on an episode of TEEN TITANS GO!

And then there was the sequel…and then there wasn’t…and then there was again…and then…Talk of Beetlejuice sequel began as early as 1990, with Jonathan Gems (later of

MARS ATTACKS!) set to pen BeetlejuiceGoes Hawaiian, which would find the Deetz family off to Hawaii and Betelgeuse turning into something called Juicifer. Burton was on board, wanting to make a German Expressionist Beach Movie Hybrid: think Frankie and Annette meets Dr. Caligari. Keaton and Ryder had been attached, but the project got pushed aside in favor of Batman returns . In 1991, Burton approached Daniel Waters (Heathers, thus a Winona Ryder connection), while Warner Bros. hired Pamela Norris (SNL) in 1993. Kevin Smith gave it a shot in 1996, but abandoned it for Superman lives (another Tim Burton failure). He later said, “Must we go tropical?”There was also another screenplay circling development by Warren Skaaren called BEETLEJUICE IN LOVE, in which Betelgeuse would chase the tail of a woman who recently lost her would-be-fiance after falling from the Eiffel Tower while proposing.As far as a more modern timeline on the Beetlejuice

sequel: in 2011, Seth Grahame-Smith (later

Dark Shadows, also directed by Burton) was set to write; in 2013, Ryder hinted at a return; the following year, Burton confirmed a screenplay was in the works; in 2015, Ryder again confirmed her return; in 2017, Mike Vukadinovich (TV’s Kidding) was hired for a rewrite; in 2019, Warner Bros. announced it was shelved. In 2022, Burton neither confirmed nor denied his involvement, and finally, the rumour mill suggested that Wednesday star Jenna Ortega would be co-starring in the long-awaited Beetlejuice 2. Warner Bros has officially announced that the movie will be released on September 6, 2024.

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