Rachel M. Johnson is a lover of all things pop culture. She's been writing about music and entertainment online for years.
Tim Burton's 1988 beloved cult classic film Beetlejuice stars Michael Keaton as the devious titular character. Since its release, the film has become a fan-favorite for Halloween. With an impressive cast including Winona Ryder, Alec Baldwin, and Geena Davis, Beetlejuice became a critical and box office success. Let's take a look at 24 kooky facts about the film.
1. Tim Burton originally wanted Sammy Davis Jr. for the titular role of Betelguese. Producer David Geffen was the one who suggested Michael Keaton for the now-iconic role.
2. Beetlejuice doesn't actually appear until twenty-five minutes into the film and actually appears in less than twenty percent of the film in its entirety, 17.5 minutes. Michael Keaton only spent two weeks filming.
3. Catherine O'Hara was not the original choice to play Delia Deetz, the matron of the living family. The role was supposed to go to Angelica Huston, who ultimately had to bow out due to illness.
4. The title character is named for a bright red star in the constellation of Orion, Betelgeuse.
5. In the wedding scene between Beetlejuice and Lydia, her wedding dress is bright red instead of the traditional white. This was a nod to the old rhyme about wedding dress colors that says, "married in red, better off dead."
6. Multiple popular actresses turned down the role of Lydia, including Molly Ringwald, Brooke Shields, Diane Lane and Jennifer Connelly. The role reportedly came down to Winona Ryder and Alyssa Milano, with Tim Burton ultimately choosing Ryder.
7. According to Tim Burton, many of the cast members had to be convinced to sign on to the film because the script was too weird. Michael Keaton, Catherine O'Hara, Winona Ryder and Sylvia Sidney all said no at least once, while Geena Davis was the only cast member who committed to the project first. Burton flew out to meet O'Hara in order to convince her to sign on.
8. The skeleton head on top of Beetlejuice's merry-go-round hat is extremely similar to the design of Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). Burton had been drawing the character since 1982 and ended up using the design for the main character in Nightmare.
9. Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Bill Murray, Christopher Lloyd, Jack Nicholson and Tim Curry were all considered for the titular role before Michael Keaton was cast.
10. Michael Keaton used the character Chop Top from Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) as the basis and inspiration for his performance as Beetlejuice.
11. The studio initially wanted to call the film "House Ghosts." As a joke, Tim Burton instead suggested the name "Scared Sheetless" and was absolutely horrified when the studio actually considered using it.
12. Michael Keaton ad-libbed 90% of his lines in the film.
13. The entire special effects budget for the movie was just one million dollars, which led Tim Burton to intentionally give the effect a B-movie quality to save on money.
14. The original plan for the epic dinner party was to have the guests dance to "a song by The Ink Spots," however, both Catherine O'Hara (Delia Deetz) and Jeffrey Jones (Charles Deetz) suggested the music be calypso.
15. While Michael Keaton believes Beetlejuice to be one of his best performances of his career, Alec Baldwin (Adam Maitland) was reportedly very unhappy with his performance and dislikes the film.
16. The original script for Beetlejuice was much more dark and sinister. It was going to include a lot of gruesome violence and feature the titular character as a leather-winged demon. The original ending also featured Betelgeuse being destroyed by an exorcism. Instead, Burton brought in two more writers to make the film more comedic.
17. Beetlejuice won the Academy Award for Best Makeup in 1989 at the 61st Academy Awards.
18. Betelgeuse/Beetlejuice's name is spoken fifteen times in the film: eight from Barbara, two from Juno and five from Lydia. Adam also says his name but mispronounces it.
19. Tim Burton left much of Beetlejuice's character development up to Michael Keaton, simply telling him that the character "lived in every time period, but was of no time period." Keaton ended up using his creative freedom to add elements to his character, such as his mold, his crazy hair and the false teeth.
20. The snake scene in the movie was filmed before Michael Keaton was cast, and the animatronic snake that was used had no resemblance to the actor. Once Keaton joined the film, they re-shot the scene with stop-motion so it looked more like his version of Betelgeuse.
21. Even though the film was given a PG rating in a PG-13 era, it actually contained the F-word once.
22. Kirstie Alley was the first choice to play Barbara Maitland, but she was unable to take the role because the Cheers producers wouldn't let her out of her contract.
23. Beetlejuice (1988) went on to earn $74 million on a $15 million budget, and it became the 10th highest grossing film in 1988.
24. Lydia (Winona Ryder) was initially supposed to have a sister in the film: Lydia would be the goth one while her sister would be more straight-laced. Writers scrapped this idea, allowing the character of Lydia to shine and become the primary focus of the film.
© 2019 Rachel M Johnson
Rachel M Johnson (author) on October 17, 2019:
Hi Louise, you should definitely watch it! Michael Keaton is absolutely amazing!
@ John, it’s one of my absolute favorite Halloween movies! He’s such a wild and devious character and Michael Keaton just made the role his own! I’m glad you enjoyed the read and thanks for the encouraging words!
John Plocar from Weatherford on October 17, 2019:
Beetlejuice is easily one of my favorite comedies, grew up with it since I was little. My dad and I watched it all the time. The part he probably laughed most at was when Betelguese kicks over the tree and utters one of the funniest lines in the movie.
Anyways, another solid article. Some of these I knew since I dig the movie so much that I looked into it a bit, but a lot of these I actually didn't. Thanks again for sharing! Good job and keep up the good work =D
Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on October 17, 2019:
I think I am one of the few people who hasn't seen this film. I really must watch it though.