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Beetlejuice (1988) Poster

(1988)

Trivia

Jump to: Director Trademark (5) | Spoilers (4)
This is Michael Keaton's favorite film of his own resume.
According to Michael Keaton, the Beetlejuice character was described to him by director Tim Burton as "having lived in every time period but no time period." Keaton used this as the jumping-off point to create the character with such features as a shock hairdo, mold makeup, and large teeth. He said that when he first showed up to the set as Beetlejuice the crew was chanting, "Juice, Juice, Juice." This got Keaton excited for his role.
Michael Keaton ad-libbed many of his lines.
The studio originally 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.
When Glenn Shadix (Otho) died in September 2010, the last song performed at his memorial service was "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)," which was used to great effect in the dinner party scene where everyone around the table is possessed and dances to the music.
The original script was a horror film, and featured Beetlejuice as a winged, reptilian demon who transformed into a small Middle Eastern man to interact with the Maitlands and the Deetzes. Lydia was a minor character, with her six year old sister Cathy being the Deetz child able to see the Maitlands. Beetlejuice's goal was to kill the Deetzs, rather than frighten them away, and included sequences where he mauled Cathy in the form of a rabid squirrel and tried to rape Lydia. Subsequent script rewrites turned the film into a comedy and toned down Beetlejuice's character into the ghost of a wise cracking con-artist rather than a demon.
All the people in the waiting room and in the office are in the same condition as when they died and the way they died is shown clearly. However, the Maitlands, who were drowned, are not wet. This was done deliberately since the director felt that keeping the actors wet all the time would be too uncomfortable.
The original plan for the dinner party was to have the guests dance to "a song by The Ink Spots", but Jeffrey Jones and Catherine O'Hara suggested the music be calypso.
When Adam and Barbara are in the office, a voice on the PA systems announces the arrival of Flight 409 ("Flight 409 is arriving at Gate 3"). On October 6, 1955 United Airlines Flight 409 crashed into a mountain over Wyoming killing all passengers and crew aboard. It was the worst crash in history to that point. To this day, no one knows why it crashed.
The snake scene had been filmed before Michael Keaton was cast as Betelgeuse, and the animatronic snake used bore no resemblance to the actor. After Keaton had been cast, some additional film was shot for the scene, using a stop-motion snake that looked more like Betelgeuse. This was suggested by the studio to make sure the audience knows that the snake is actually Betelgeuse and not some random monster from the afterlife.
Not surprisingly, the movie's impressive box-office success created plans for a sequel: Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian. A script was commissioned and Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder both signed on to reprise their respective roles, but Tim Burton lost interest in the project and went on to direct Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992) instead. As late as 2015, Warner Bros. was still trying to get the original sequel concept into production.
At the dinner party, Otho states that people who commit suicide end up as "civil servants" in the afterlife. This is actually expanded on in the film: the civil servant ghosts Adam and Barbara meet are people who appear to have ended their own lives.
  • The receptionist says she committed suicide, there is a man who hanged himself, and the crushed messenger is implied to have done it to himself.
  • Juno looks normal, but there are scars on her neck that indicate she cut her own throat.
  • Beetlejuice is said to have been a civil servant and Juno's assistant; it was going to be explained in the film that he hanged himself (incompetently and very painfully) due to heartbreak. While this was cut out of the film for running time purposes, it is hinted when Bettlejuice is surprised at Lydia wishing to die.
Betelgeuse reveals a hideous (albeit unseen) face to Adam and Barbara. Originally, Betelgeuse's "scary face" was going to be seen, and an elaborate makeup effect was created to that end, but ultimately went unused.
During the sequence where Adam and Barbara enter Juno's office and see her speaking to a recently deceased football team, a movie theater full of ghosts can be seen through Juno's office window. When the film was first released in theaters, the scene created the illusion that the audience were themselves being watched by the ghosts. Among the ghosts in the audience are a red skeleton and a green skeleton (identical to the ones seen in Tim Burton's later movie, Mars Attacks! (1996)), a woman with red hair, and two men in suits and Ray-Ban style sunglasses (AKA The Blues Brothers)
According to Dick Cavett, Tim Burton tried to film the scene where shrimp jump off the plates and attack the dinner party by positioning stage hands beneath the table and throwing them. Cavett suggested placing the shrimp on their faces, filming them as they fell off, then running the film in reverse - which Burton did.
Michael Keaton based his performance of Beetlejuice on Chop Top from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986).
Along with Spaceballs (1987), Big (1988) and Caddyshack II (1988), the film is notable for containing "the F word" in a film rated PG during the PG-13 era.
Catherine O'Hara (Delia) met her future husband, production designer Bo Welch, on this film.
In the first waiting room scene several methods of death are shown. These include: A camper who was bitten by a rattle snake, a diner who choked on what looks like a chicken bone, a surfer who was attacked by a shark, a girl (evidently a magician's assistant) who was sawed in half at the torso, the shrunken-head man, and a smoker who is a burn victim.
The logo joke (a ghoulish version of the Banana Boat song) was added during post-production.
Betelgeuse, the title character, doesn't appear until 25 minutes into the film and ultimately appears in less than 20% of the film in its entirety. Michael Keaton spent only two weeks filming.
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.
According to Tim Burton, it took a lot of time to convince other cast members to sign, as they thought the script was too weird. 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.
A toy line was released in conjunction with the film, featuring action figures of most of Beetlejuice's incarnations, Otho, Adam (whose figure featured him wearing a red baseball cap), and the Shrunken Head Man from the waiting room, whose figure was named "Harry the Haunted Hunter" and came with a detachable head showing what he looked like before death.
Much of Michael Keaton's performance included improvisation. One of the most notable scenes in which Keaton utilized improv was during the first conversation between Adam, Barbara and Betelgeuse. When asked for his qualifications, Michael Keaton briefly breaks character and speaks in his normal speaking voice. Some of the credentials given, including being a graduate of the Harvard Business School, attending Juliard, and extensive traveling are all factual achievements of Michael Keaton.
The skeleton head on top of Betelgeuse's Merry-Go-Round looks remarkably like Jack Skellington, a skeleton figure which Tim Burton had been drawing since 1982 and would ultimately be used as the main character of The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), which Burton produced.
Producer Jon Peters thought of casting controversial comedian Sam Kinison as Beetlegeuse, but Kinison's agent never told him about it.
Winona Ryder (Lydia) was only 17 years old in this movie.
Just before the dinner party scene, Delia mentions to Lydia that one of their guests is a writer for 'Art in America 'magazine. In the very last scene, when Delia shows Charles her latest sculpture, there is a copy of 'Art in America' behind him, with a picture of Delia and several of her sculptures on the cover.
Although the character's true name is Betelgeuse, it was spelled "Beetlejuice" in the title because it's funnier and markets better.
Although the film is set in Connecticut, it was actually filmed in the small town of East Corinth, Vermont. A small creek which runs though the town was dammed up to provide deeper water for the covered bridge scene. The covered bridge itself was specially built for this scene on Chicken Farm Rd near the village. The Maitland's house was a facade built in a farm field 100 yards uphill from the bridge for exterior shots only. From this hill can be seen the "Nice building" with the "Bad roof" which was actually the town post office.
Juliette Lewis auditioned for the role of Lydia. Lori Loughlin, Diane Lane, Sarah Jessica Parker, Brooke Shields, Justine Bateman, Molly Ringwald and Jennifer Connelly all turned down the same role.
The casting of Lydia came down to just two actresses, namely, Winona Ryder and Alyssa Milano, with Ryder ultimately landing the role.
A set of screen used foam latex prosthetic pieces (the faces Adam and Barbara pull) were found in an English couples home during filming for a UK show called "Cash In The Attic" where people put personal items up for auction to raise cash, but the pieces were in such poor condition that they didn't sell.
Alec Baldwin dislikes the film and was very unhappy with his performance.
Delia has a knack for "repurposing" clothing to wear in different styles.
  • In one scene Delia wears the red sweater that Charles wore in a previous scene, except as pants. She wears the sweater upside down with her legs in the arm holes and held up around her waist with suspenders.
  • During the Deetzes' first dinner in their new home, Delia is seen with an elaborate decorative black hair band wrapped around her head that nearly resembles feathers. The "headband" is actually a pair intertwined women's gloves.
Glenn Shadix (Otho) and Winona Ryder (Lydia) both also appear in Heathers (1988)
Kirstie Alley was the first choice for the role of Barbara. But the producers of Cheers (1982) wouldn't let her out of her contract to take the role. Sigourney Weaver, Goldie Hawn, Laura Dern and Linda Hamilton were also considered for the role.
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When Beetlejuice turns into a merry-go-round, Michael Keaton has bat-wings on his ears. Keaton's next films with director Tim Burton were Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992) where he played the title character.
When Adam and Barbara are seated in Juno's office, behind their heads sits a window where a movie theater of ghosts can be easily seen. This implies that this is a film being watched by the dead in a movie theater in their world. It is during this specific scene when the two sides are finally made aware of each other: for a brief moment, the living can see the dead and the dead can see the living.
Beetlejuice's black and white striped outfit suggests he is a prisoner to the curse that's befallen him.
Adam, Barbara, Charles and Delia were all named alphabetically.
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In the scene where Adam and Barbara transform, the clay sculptures took 1 week to create.
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Originally Lionel Newman was hired to conduct the score, however during the first day of recording, he kept making changes to Elfman's written score and the result was Newman being replaced as conductor by William Ross. Elfman harbored no ill will about it.
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Otho recites lines from the poem "The Warning" by Thomas Lovell Beddoes while he is resurrecting the Maitlands.
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The title character is named for a bright red star in the constellation of Orion, Betelgeuse. It's pretty much a sci-fi word. However, in the H.P. Lovecraft horror stories, Betelgeuse is the home of the Elder Gods.
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Dudley Moore was considered for the role of Betelgeuse.
The film cast includes one Oscar winner: Geena Davis and four Oscar nominees: Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin, Winona Ryder and Sylvia Sidney.
Otho Fenlock was named after Otho, who was Roman Emperor for three months, from 15 January to 16 April 69.
At one point, Tim Burton considered Arnold Schwarzenegger for the role of Betelgeuse. However, The Geffen Company felt that due to Schwarzenegger's reputation at the time as an action star, people wouldn't take it seriously. But Burton approached Schwarzenegger anyway. He turned it down as he was busy shooting The Running Man (1987).
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After the surprise box office success of Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985), Tim Burton found he was the hot director, being sent all the top scripts. However, he disliked them all and was on the point of starting to write his version of Batman (1989) when he was sent Michael McDowell's original screenplay. He loved the premise, and promptly signed on.
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Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton) says, "I've seen The Exorcist (1973) about 167 times and it keeps getting funnier every time I see it!" Geena Davis (Barbara Maitland) later starred as Angela Rance (the adult Regan MacNeil) in the television adaptation The Exorcist (2016).
Geena Davis and Jeffrey Jones are in two movies together: this one and Stuart Little (1999).
The scene with the fly is a tribute to the horror film The Fly (1958). Geena Davis had previously starred in the remake The Fly (1986).
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Miss Argentina's full sash can be seen with the year "1939". The movie is set in 1988, so she could have been working as the netherworld receptionist for almost 50 years.
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Anjelica Huston was originally meant to be Delia, but she was ill and couldn't come for filming.
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The special effects budget was just $1 million, a major factor in Tim Burton deciding to make the effects look as tacky and B-movie as possible.
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Michael Keaton, playing the title character, only appears in 17.5 minutes of the film.
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Jeffrey Jones (Charles Deetz) and Winona Ryder (Lydia Deetz) would appear together again in The Crucible (1996).
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Juno is the name of the Queen of the Roman gods.
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Michael Keaton and Geena Davis would reunite six years later for the political comedy, Speechless (1994).
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Part of the spell Otho recites to resurrect Barbara and Adam are lines from Thomas Lovell Beddoes' poem The Warning. The full poem reads:

As sudden thunder Pierces night; As magic wonder, Wild affright, Rives asunder Men's delight; Our ghost, our corpse and we Rise to be. As flies the lizard Serpent fell; As goblin vizard At the spell Of pale wizard Sinks to hell; Our life, our laugh our lay Pass away. As wake the morning Trumpets bright; As snowdrop, scorning Winter's might, Rises warning Like a sprite; We buried, dead and slain Rise again.
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The film won a Saturn Award in 1990 for best horror movie.
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Tim Burton sought out Anton Furst to be his production designer but Furst had committed to High Spirits (1988), a film which was spiraling out of control. The two would work together the following year on Batman (1989) for which Furst would go on to win an Academy Award.
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The 10th biggest grossing film of 1988.
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Alec Baldwin and Jeffrey Jones would later go on to star together in The Hunt for Red October.
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Linda Blair was briefly considered for the role of Barbara.
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Larry Wilson was brought on board to reshape Michael McDowell's screenplay but creative differences between McDowell and Tim Burton led to the former being replaced by Warren Skaaren.
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Winona Ryder was cast on the strength of her performance in Lucas (1986).
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Director Trademark 

Tim Burton: [distorted female face] One of Barbara's early attempts to scare off intruders, and her mouth "zipped" during the climax.
Tim Burton: [music] music by Danny Elfman
Tim Burton: [dogs] The Maitlands' deaths are caused by a stray dog wandering around the bridge their car topples over.
Tim Burton: [stop-motion animation] The sculptures, sandworms, and various effects.
Tim Burton: [TV commercials] Betelgeuse's TV commercial.

Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

In Beetlejuice's forced wedding, Lydia's dress is a bright red. According to the old rhyme about wedding dress colors, it's "Married in red, better off dead."
Betelgeuse/Beetlejuice's name is spoken exactly 15 times in the film--8 from Barbara, 2 from Juno, and 5 from Lydia. Adam also says his name a few times but mispronounces it.
The number 3 is used several times: The number of times to say commands ("Betelgeuse", "home"), the number of times to knock on the door to get to the other side, and the number of first class intercessions allotted. When moving in, Delia also mentions a missing sculpture; "Why are there only 3, there should be 4..."
The epilogue with Beetlejuice and the witchdoctor was added in post-production.
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