Beetlejuice: 10 Ghoulish Facts About This Tim Burton Classic

One of Tim Burton’s most celebrated works, Beetlejuice is still as refreshing and enjoyable today as when it was released in 1988. Here are 10 things you might not have known about this zany gothic flick…

1) Scared sheetless

The studio weren’t keen on the title ‘Beetlejuice’ so they suggested ‘House Ghost’ instead. In response, Tim Burton jokingly suggested they call it, ‘Scared sheetless.’ The studio took him seriously, and this almost became the title. 

2) Sammy Davis Junior was the Beetlejuice Tim Burton wanted 

Picturing the lead character to have a laid back lounge singer vibe, Tim Burton wanted Rat Pack member Sammy Davis Jr for the role. It was studio executive David Geffen that suggested Michael Keaton for the role, and he aced the part. Tim Burton later cast him as Batman in the 1989 film and its sequel, Batman Returns. 

Winona Ryder as Lydia Deetz in Beetlejuice
Warner Bros.

3) Juliette Lewis auditioned for Lydia

Juliette Lewis auditioned for the role of Lydia, whilst Sarah Jessica Parker and Jennifer Connelly turned it down. Tim Burton was impressed by Winona Ryder’s performance in Lucas, and cast her in the role of the gothic daughter. He later went on to cast her in Edwards Scissorhands and Frankenweenie, too.  

4) There was almost a sequel called Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian

There were plans – and a screenplay – for a sequel to Beetlejuice. It was going to be called Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian, and would see the Deetz family moving to Hawaii. However, there company would unfortunately be built on an ancient burial ground, and it would be up to Michael Keaton’s enigmatic ghoul to save the day. 

Delia Deetz (Catherine O'Hara) in Beetlejuice
Warner Bros.

5) Angelica Huston was set to play Delia

Three years before playing queen-of-all-things-gothic Morticia Addams, Angelica Huston was cast as the overbearing Delia in Beetlejuice. Unfortunately, she fell ill before filming started, and so the role was re-cast and given to Catherine O Hara. 

6) The name Beetlejuice comes from a star 

If you’ve ever wondered where the character’s name comes from, you’ll have to look to the skies. In the constellation Orion, there’s a star called Betelgeuse, which is one of the brightest stars in Earth’s night sky. 

Otho (Glenn Shadix) during the Banana Song scene in Beetlejuice
Warner Bros.

7) Day-o was the final song played at Glenn Shadix’ memorial service 

Glenn Shadix, who played Otho in the film, sadly died in 2010 after falling in his kitchen and hitting his head. At his funeral service, the last song that played was Day-O by Harry Belafonte. This is the song that plays during the famous dinner scene. 

8) Michael Keaton isn’t in very much of the film 

Beetlejuice clocked up just 25 minutes of screentime (about 25% of the film) which is an unusually short amount of time for a titular character. We probably just think he’s in it longer because all his scenes are so zany, energetic and engrossing. With such a slim screentime, Keaton was only on set for two weeks, which isn’t very long for a leading actor. 

Beetlejuice in the waiting room
Warner Bros.

 9) Beetlejuice got a happier ending thanks to test audiences 

The initial ending to the film saw a pretty grim ending for Beetlejuice, instead of a humorous one, where the ghoul ended up stuck in the model town, being tormented by sand worms. The test audience loved the character though, and as part of their feedback, encouraged the filmmakers to go easier on Beetlejuice in the film’s finale. Hence, the waiting room scene was devised, where he has his head shrunken by a witch doctor.  

10) The original script wasn’t very funny 

The first draft for Beetlejuice was much darker, and more of a gothic horror, with the titular character being a winged reptilian demon, who ends up assaulting Lydia instead of trying to marry her. Burton re-wrote it to make it much more light, humorous and family-friendly. 

Beetlejuice trailer


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