1988 supernatural comedy classic Beetlejuice features Michael Keaton as the title character, a devious and disgusting ghost who specialises in getting rid of the living. The recently deceased Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis call on him for help (by saying his name three times) when their house is bought by an obnoxious couple and their angsty teenage daughter (Winona Ryder, in her breakthrough role).
It’s a colourful, madcap romp like no other – but did you know the following facts about Beetlejuice?
12. Beetlejuice takes his name from a star
Betelgeuse is the 9th biggest star in the sky, located in the Orion constellation. If you’re an avid star-gazer then you might want to look out for this one the next time there is a clear sky.
In some parts of the film, Beetlejuice is even spelt the same way as “Betelgeuse” showing that this is, indeed, what he was named after – but for the film’s official title, a more phonetic spelling was chosen.
11. The Maitlands were almost soaking wet the whole time
One thing we notice in Beetlejuice is that all the dead keep signs revealing the way that they died. For instance, the flat guy who was run over, the guy with the shark on his leg, and the receptionist with the slit wrists. By this rationale, Barbara and Adam Maitland should have been soaking wet for the whole movie, as they died by drowning.
However, director Tim Burton decided that being constantly soggy would be a bit too uncomfortable for actors Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin, so they were spared. Lucky them!
10. The original script was much darker
Beetlejuice is a largely light-hearted comedy horror, but the first draft of the script had a lot less humour and a lot more horror. The title character was a monstrous winged demon, and his disturbances in the human world had grisly results. The filmmakers ultimately decided the film would work better without so much gore, hence things were toned down considerably.
The resulting film got a PG rating from the MPAA, despite the ghoulish content and the fact that at one point Keaton’s title character uses the F-word; it’s one of the few PGs to get away with a single use of that dreaded curse, others including Spaceballs and Big. (British censors were less lenient, giving Beetlejuice a 15 certificate.)
9. The studio considered renaming the film ‘Scared Sheetless’
It’s hard now to imagine the film being called anything but Beetlejuice, but the producers weren’t always convinced that was the best title. As a joke, Tim Burton suggested they instead call the movie Scared Sheetless (presumably a nod to the sheets the Maitlands wear when trying to scare off the Deetzes).
To Burton’s alarm, the studio execs didn’t realise he was kidding, and actually considering going with Scared Sheetless, until he persuaded them to stick with the original title.
8. Sammy Davis Jr. was the first choice for the title role
Michael Keaton wasn’t necessarily a household name when he was cast in the title role of Beetlejuice, so it’s not surprising he wasn’t the first choice.
You probably wouldn’t have guessed who Tim Burton first had in mind for the role, though: iconic singer and comedian Sammy Davis Jr.
7. Michael Keaton filmed all his scenes in just two weeks
Beetlejuice may be the title character in the film, but he’s actually only on screen for 17 minutes, much less time than Geena Davis, Alec Baldwin and Winona Ryder. It only took Michael Keaton two weeks to film his scenes, many of which were ad-libbed.
In the years since, Tim Burton and Michael Keaton have made three more movies together: the first two Batman films, and 2019’s Dumbo. This number may go up, if the long-planned Beetlejuice sequel ever happens…
6. Anjelica Huston and Juliette Lewis came close to playing Delia and Lydia
In the horror-comedy flick we all know and love, Winona Ryder plays the morose Lydia Deetz whilst Catherine O’Hara plays her shallow and bubbly stepmother Delia – but it was nearly very different.
Juliette Lewis was also a contender for Lydia, whilst Anjelica Huston was considered for Delia. They would have had the same goth vs preppy energy, but it would have definitely been world’s away from what we ended up with!
5. Beetlejuice got a happier ending because test audiences loved him
Beetlejuice could have been stuck in the model town running from sandworms forever had test audiences not reacted so positively to his character. His popularity encouraged the filmmakers to film a new ending.
Because of this, they shot a new epilogue scene in which Beetlejuice sits in the waiting room with the witch doctor.
4. It won an Oscar
As well as being a hit with audiences, Beetlejuice also had some awards season recognition, winning an illustrious Academy Award.
Steve La Porte, Ve Neill and Robert Short shared the gong for Best Make-Up which the film won at the 1989 Oscars.
3. A sequel was discussed right away – but Burton and Keaton made Batman instead
After Beetlejuice proved a hit, plans were soon in place for a follow-up. The unlikely-sounding sequel was to be entitled Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian, and it would have seen the Deetz family travel to Hawaii with plans to open a hotel resort.
However, Tim Burton and Michael Keaton chose to make Batman instead, and the follow-up film wound up falling between the cracks.
2. Beetlejuice 2 could still happen (maybe)
Rumours of a belated Beetlejuice sequel have come and gone over the years. In 2016, word broke that Tim Burton, Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder were all on board to finally make a Beetlejuice sequel – yet as of 2023, the project has failed to materialise.
Even so, Beetlejuice has enjoyed a new lease of life as a stage musical, which premiered in 2018. There was also a Beetlejuice animated TV series, which ran from 1989 to 1991.
1. ‘Day-O’ was played at Glen Shadix’s funeral
‘Day-O’ by Harry Belafonte, as featured in the film’s memorable dinner party sequence, was played at the funeral of actor Glenn Shadix (who played Otho in the film) after he sadly passed away in 2010.