“Let’s turn on the juice and see what shakes loose.” —Betelgeuse
Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice is about an ordinary couple who just happen to be ghosts. When the couple discover that a family has moved into their precious house, they attempt to scare them away—and when that doesn’t work, they turn to the obnoxious and scheming ghost Betelgeuse (pronounced, of course, as “Beetlejuice”) for help. Chaos ensues! Below are 38 unusual facts about one of Burton’s masterpieces.
38. Scared Sheetless
The studio didn’t like the title Beetlejuice and wanted to call it House Ghosts. As a joke, Burton suggested Scared Sheetless and was shocked when the studio considered using it.
37. Oscar Winner
Beetlejuice won an Oscar for best Makeup in 1989.
Oscars Outdoors Screening Of ‘Beetlejuice’
Burton described the character of Betelgeuse to Keaton as “having lived in every time period but no time period.”
35. Last Song
At Glenn Shadix’s funeral, the actor who played Otho in Beetlejuice, the last memorial song played was “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song),” which was used famously in the dinner party scene.
34. Wanted Mr. Showbusiness
Burton originally wanted Sammy Davis Jr. for the role of Betelgeuse. It was producer David Geffen who suggested Michael Keaton for the now-iconic role.
33. Second Choice
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 Anjelica Huston, who had to bow out due to illness.
32. Twisted Her Arm
When Burton offered O’Hara the role of Delia, she initially turned him down. It wasn’t until he flew out to personally meet with her that he was able to convince her to accept it.
31. As the Old Rhyme Says…
In the climactic wedding scene, Lydia’s 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.”
30. Choose Another Song
In the dinner party scene, the guests were originally supposed to dance to a song by the Ink Spots instead of to “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song),” but O’Hara and Jefferey Jones (playing Charles Deetz) suggested using calypso music instead.
29. Star Power
The name Betelgeuse comes from a star in the constellation Orion. It’s the 9th brightest star in the sky.
Several popular actresses at the time turned down the role of Lydia. Among them were Diane Lane, Brooke Shields, Molly Ringwald, and Jennifer Connelly. After seeing her in the film Lucas, Burton decided to give the part to Winona Ryder.
27. Happy Ending
When Beetlejuice was screened for a test audience, they responded so positively to the Keaton’s Betelgeuse that Burton’s team went back to create an upbeat epilogue for the character. An earlier draft had Betelgeuse plagued by sandworms in the Maitlands’ model town.
26. United Flight 409
While Barbara and Adam are waiting in the after-world office, they hear an message over the PA that announces the arrival of flight 409. That’s based on the 1955 crash of the real-life flight 409, which mysteriously went down and killed everybody on board.
25. Literally Animated
In 1989, Beetlejuice became an animated TV show. The show centered around Lydia and Betelgeuse, and also included Charles and Delia Deetz as recurring characters. The show ran for four seasons.
24. No Hesitation
Despite the difficulties that Burton had filling some of the other roles in the cast, Geena Davis (who plays Barbara Maitland) and Keaton signed on immediately when they heard about the film.
23. Making it Count
Keaton’s first appearance in Beetlejuice doesn’t come until 25 minutes into the film, and he only has a total of 17.5 minutes of screen time in the entire 92-minute movie.
22. Creepy or Cool?
Between 1989 and 1990, Beetlejuice had its own line of toys. Kenner produced a series of action figures based on the characters from the movie, and they came in black-and-white pinstriped packaging to mimic Betelgeuse’s trademark suit.
21. Scenes Left in Limbo
There were several scenes written for the film that never made it into the final version. One such scene showed the world of limbo, the realm between the living and the dead, which was composed of giant gears cutting through the fabric (in the sequence, literal fabric) of time.
When Burton showed Golden-Age Hollywood star Sylvia Sidney the script, she was reluctant to play the afterlife detective Juno, and Burton had to beg her to sign on. Sidney later worked with Burton on what would be her last film, 1996’s Mars Attacks.
19. Made Low, Earned High
Beetlejuice was made on a moderate budget, but raked in $73 million at the box-office and was the 10th highest-grossing film of 1988.
18. Third Time’s the Charm
It’s a well-known fact that to summon Beetlejuice, you need only say his name three times, but some of the rest of the film also comes in threes: the Maitlands say the word home three times to escape Beetlejuice, they knock on the door three times to get to the afterlife, and when Lydia’s family moves in, Delia wonders why there are only three sculptures where there should be four.
Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice
17.Heard in the Background
If you listen carefully, you’ll hear the film’s composer, Danny Elfman, singing a ghoulish version “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” in the opening credits sequence when the Geffen logo appears.
16. Get Yours Today
For $24.95 USD, you too can purchase your own copy of The Handbook for the Recently Deceased on Etsy.
15. Civil Service
At the dinner party, Otho states that people who commit suicide end up as civil servants in the afterlife. The movie further expands on the idea by having Barbara and Adam meet a number of civil servant ghosts who seem to have committed suicide.
14. Graveyard Revue
Beetlejuice’s Rock and Roll Graveyard Revue was a popular attraction at Universal Studios in Florida, rocking audiences from 1992-2016. The last performance played on January 5, 2016, and the attraction was closed to make way for a The Fast and the Furious franchise ride, which opens in 2018.
13. Character Crossover
The skeleton head on top of Beetlejuice’s merry-go-round hat bears a strong resemblance to Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Burton had been drawing the character since 1982, and he ended up using the design for the main character in Nightmare.
12. You’re Being Watched!
When Adam and Barbara enter Juno’s office, a movie theatre full of ghosts can be seen through her office window. This was supposed to create the illusion that the movie-watchers were in turn being watched by the ghosts.
A never-made sequel to Beetlejuice moved the setting from New England to Hawaii, and had Betelgeuse wreaking havoc on the island by turning into a creature named Juicifer. Burton ultimately lost interest in the movie, and went on to direct Batman instead.
Keaton used the character Chop Top from Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 as the basis for his performance as Betelgeuse.
9. 1,000 Ways to Die
The first waiting room scene in the movie shows ghosts who died by a variety of methods: one is a camper who died from a rattle snake bite, one a magician’s assistant who has been sawed in half, and another a surfer who was attacked by a shark.
8. Juice! Juice! Juice!
When Keaton first showed up to the set in character, the crew was chanted “Juice! Juice! Juice!” This got him excited for the role, and inspired him to do a lot of improvisation while filming.
7. Deliberately Cheesy
The entire special effects budget for Beetlejuice was just one million dollars, which led Burton to intentionally give the effects a B-movie quality to save money.
6. One Guy Wasn’t Happy
Although Keaton loves Beetlejuice and considers it one of the best movies in his oeuvre, Alec Baldwin (who played Adam Maitland) dislikes the film and was reportedly very unhappy with his performance.
5. In Order
The characters Adam, Barbra, Charles, and Delia were all named alphabetically.
4. Stick to the Score
Originally, Lionel Newman was hired to conduct Danny Elfman’s score. During the first day of recording, however, Newman kept making changes to what Elfman had written, and as a result was replaced with William Ross.
3. Name Game
Betelgeuse’s name is spoken exactly 15 times in the movie by three different characters. Barbara says it eight times, Juno twice, and Lydia five times. While Adam does say the name, he mispronounces it each time.
2. Whimsy Wasn’t the Plan
The original script for Beetlejuice included a great deal more gruesome violence, and portrayed Betelgeuse as a leather-winged demon. His twisted plan for the Deetzes was actually to rape and murder, rather than the easier-to-swallow mischief featured in the final cut. The original ending involved Betelgeuse being destroyed by an exorcism. Tim Burton brought in two additional writers to make the film more comedic and less sinister.
1. Beetlejuice Returns
Ever since the film’s release, there have been rumors of a Beetlejuice sequel. Both Ryder and Keaton have expressed interest in reprising their roles.
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