Beetlejuice is the goth/comedy/horror mash-up of our blackened dreams. It was the Tim Burton Michael Keaton movie we didn't know we needed, when those two Caped Cruder capers were but bats in their belfries. Beetlejuice sits mightily alongside the rest of peak Tim Burton. Feel like your whole life is a dark room? One, big, dark, room? It's time to call the Ghost with the Most. Sure, he'll probably wreck everything, in this life and in the afterlife, but it'll be a blast. If he gets too bothersome, just call on a sandworm or two. Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! So shrink your head and get undead, crank up the Harry Belafonte, and journey into the Netherworld as we rediscover at 10 things you never knew about Beetlejuice.
Original Beetlejuice script was much more grim.
The original Beetlejuice script describes the title character as a leather-winged demon, with a human form that's far less charming than the green haired ghost we know and love. There was a lot more blood and gore in those pages, with a much more sinister tone.
House Ghosts and Scared Sheetless were possible titles.
The higher-ups at Warner Bros. were perhaps understandably a bit squeamish about releasing a movie called "Beetlejuice" and strongly suggested a name change. House Ghosts was their preferred title. Burton jokingly offered Scared Sheetless in response. According to an IFC article, the studio actually took him seriously at first.
Beetlejuice is a star.
Yes, the movie turned the title character into a pop cultural hero, complete with his own band at Universal Studios in Florida and Japan. But the origin of his name is quite literally cosmic. "Betelgeuse" is an actual star, situated in the Orion constellation. In fact, it's the ninth brightest star in the Earth's night sky.
Michael Keaton wasn't Tim Burton's first choice.
Sammy Davis, Jr. was already in his sixties around the time Beetlejuice was getting going, but at that point, the character was envisioned with a bit more of a laidback lounge singer vibe. Tim Burton was gung-ho to cast the famous Rat Packer in the title role. It was actually music impresario David Geffen, who oversaw the picture for Warner Bros., who suggested Michael Keaton. At the time, Keaton was known for more straightforward comedic fare like Mr. Mom.
Juliette Lewis auditioned to play Lydia.
The future star of Natural Born Killers was one of the young actresses who auditioned for the crucial role of Lydia, after a number of stars reportedly passed on the role, including Molly Ringwald, Jennifer Connelly, Diane Lane, and Sarah Jessica Parker. Burton was impressed with Wynona Ryder's performance in 1986's Lucas. Ryder was only 17 when she made both Beetlejuice and Heathers the same year.
Angelica Huston was originally cast as Delia Deetz.
The famous daughter of Hollywood royalty was originally cast as matriarch Delia Deetz, but had to drop out when she became ill. Everything worked out in the end. Catherine O'Hara met her future husband, production designer Bo Welch, on Beetlejuice. Huston was able to indulge in some campy goth goodness down the road, starring as Morticia in The Addams Family and The Addams Family Values.
Danny Elfman sings Day-O in the opening credits.
Harry Belafonte's "Day-O" became synonymous with Beetlejuice in the years following the movie's release. Sharp eared listeners will detect the voice of composer and longtime Burton collaborator Danny Elfman singing "Day-O" just as the logo for The Geffen Company pops up in the movie's opening titles.
Day-O played at Glenn Shadix's memorial.
Glenn Shadix delivered one of the movie's many standout performances, giving rich life and charisma to Otho. He reunited with Wynona Ryder in Heathers the same year and teamed back up with Burton in The Nightmare Before Christmas, as the voice of the mayor of Halloween Town, and in the director's Planet of the Apes remake. Shadix also had a memorable turn in Demolition Man. After the actor's passing in 2010, Harry Belafonte's "Day-O" was the last song played at his memorial.
Test Audiences gave us that cool epilogue.
Beetlejuice may have been stuck in that model town running from sandworms forever had test audiences not fallen in love with him. The reactions to the character were so enthusiastic that the filmmakers shot a new outro for Keaton's ghoul, putting together that scene where he sits in the waiting room with the witch doctor.
Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian almost happened.
In 1990 Tim Burton commissioned Jonathan Gems, who had done some uncredited script doctoring on Batman, to write a script for a Beetlejuice sequel called Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian. He was going to have Heathers scribe Daniel Waters do a rewrite but tasked him with Batman Returns instead. Warner Bros. also approached Kevin Smith, who passed on rewriting in favor of taking a crack at Superman Lives. Burton was famously attached to that film eventually and nearly made it with Nicolas Cage in the lead. Gems later wrote Burton's Mars Attacks!. Talk of a Beetljejuice sequel persists, but the Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian script specifically seems to be dead.