Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Michael McDowell
Other cast: Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O'Hara
Release date: March 29th, 1988
Genre: Comedy, fantasy
Running time: 92min
This is the story of Adam and Barbara who live in a beautiful house in New England. One day while driving home they are involved in a terrible auto accident. They manage to walk home only to discover later that they have died and now haunt their house. When their house is purchased by an out of state family, they feel their home is threatened by the over-the-top artists wife and real-estate idea-man husband. Their only relief is the Gothic daughter of the family. Their attempts at scaring the family out of the house are ignored or laughed at. Finally they fall to the temptation to use the people-exorcizer Beetle Juice. When they find his tactics too dangerous, they attempt to contain him and save the family they were trying to boot.
The financial success of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985) meant that Burton was considered a “bankable” director, and he began working on a script for Batman with Sam Hamm. While Warner Bros. was willing to pay for the script’s development, they were less willing to green-light Batman. Meanwhile, Burton had begun reading the scripts that had been sent his way, and was disheartened by their lack of imagination and originality, one of them being Hot to Trot. David Geffen handed Burton the script for Beetlejuice, written by McDowell (who wrote the script for “The Jar”, an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents directed by Burton).
Wilson was brought on board to continue rewriting work with McDowell, though Burton replaced McDowell and Wilson with Skaaren due to creative differences. Burton’s original choice for Betelgeuse was Sammy Davis, Jr., but Geffen suggested Keaton. Burton was unfamiliar with Keaton’s work, but was quickly convinced. Burton cast Ryder upon seeing her in Lucas. O’Hara quickly signed on, while Burton claimed it took a lot of time to convince other cast members to sign, as “they didn’t know what to think of the weird script.”
Beetlejuice’s budget was $15 million, with just $1 million given over to visual effects work. Considering the scale and scope of the effects, which included stop motion, replacement animation, prosthetic makeup, puppetry and blue screen, it was always Burton’s intention to make the style similar to the B movies he grew up with as a child. “I wanted to make them look cheap and purposely fake-looking,” Burton remarked. Burton had wanted to hire Anton Furst as production designer after being impressed with his work on The Company of Wolves (1984) and Full Metal Jacket (1987), though Furst was committed on High Spirits, a choice he later regretted. He hired Bo Welch, his future collaborator on Edward Scissorhands (1990) and Batman Returns (1992). The test screenings were met with positive feedback and prompted Burton to film an epilogue featuring Betelgeuse foolishly angering a witch doctor. Warner Bros. disliked the title Beetlejuice and wanted to call the film House Ghosts. As a joke, Burton suggested the name Scared Sheetless and was horrified when the studio actually considered using it. Exterior shots were filmed in East Corinth, Vermont.
Theatrical Trailer & Clips
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Trivia & Facts
- Tim Burton originally wanted Sammy Davis Jr., a favorite star of his since childhood, to play the role of Betelgeuse but studio executives didn’t like that idea at all.
- The only cast member who would initially commit to the project was Geena Davis. Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder, ‘Catherine O’Hara ‘ , and Sylvia Sidney all said no at least once. Producer David Geffen convinced Michael Keaton’s manager to convince Michael to meet with director Tim Burton. Once Michael said yes, Tim Burton personally called Sylvia Sidney and begged her to do the movie, and he flew out to meet with Catherine O’Hara to convince her as well.
- In the wedding scene, Lydia’s dress is a bright red. According to the old rhyme about wedding dress colors, it’s “Married in red, better off dead.”
- The studio disliked the title “Beetlejuice” and wanted to call the film “House Ghosts”. As a joke, Tim Burton suggested the name “Scared Sheetless” and was horrified when the studio actually considered using it.
- Michael Keaton spent only two weeks filming his part in the film.
- Michael Keaton only appears in 17.5 minutes of the film’s entire 92-minute running time.
- Juliette Lewis auditioned for the role of Lydia.
- In early versions of the script, Lydia was a minor character. Originally, her adorable 6-year-old half sister, called Cathy, was meant to be the girl who befriended the Maitlands. Eventually the two characters were combined.
- Betelgeuse’s name is said only 15 times. Barbara said it 8 times, Juno said it 2 times, and Lydia said it 5 times.
[On the new house]
“Delia hates it.”
[sees a HUGE spider on a web]
“I could live here.”
- “Maybe YOU can relax in a haunted house, but I can’t.”
- [Lydia is writing a suicide note] “I am alone.”
[erases and starts over]
“I am *utterly* alone.”
- “My life is a dark room. One big dark room.”
- “I myself am… strange and unusual.”
- “You can’t scare her, she’s sleeping with Prince Valium tonight. “
- “Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse,”
- “I’m not scared of sheets. Are you gross under there? Are you Night of the Living Dead under there? Like all bloody veins and pus?”
- I was in my all-black phase. I had this really gloomy look. In a way, we looked almost alike, we had the same tousled black hair, and we were both dressed primarily in black.
Winona abour Lydia
- I asked Winona because I had seen her in Lucas, and she had a really strong presence. But I’d heard she didn’t want to do it because of the satanic thing. I thought she must be a religious person or something, but then I found out that it wasn’t true because when I met her she wanted to do it, and she was great.
Tim Burton about Winona