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.
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 make-up, 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.
Tim Burton feared the "Day-O" sequence wouldn't go over well, since in his opinion it wasn't very funny. He turned out to be wrong: audiences loved it and think of it as one of the film's most iconic scenes.
In the waiting room at the end of the film, the bottom half of the magician's assistant that Beetlejuice tries to feel up was played by Tim Burton's then-girlfriend.
Michael Keaton, playing the title character, only appears in 14.5 minutes of the film.
When Adam and Barbara are in the office, a voice on the PA system announces "Flight 409 is arriving at Gate 3." United Airlines Flight 409 crashed into a mountain in Wyoming on October 6, 1955, killing all passengers and crew aboard. At the time, it was one of the worst plane crashes in history. (Three plane crashes in 1955 had a total of 66 casualities.) To this day, no one knows why it crashed.
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 drowned, are not wet. Tim Burton felt that keeping the actors wet all the time would be too uncomfortable.
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 in the dinner party scene.
Catherine O'Hara met her future husband, production designer Bo Welch, while making this film. According to Welch, Tim Burton said he should ask her out near the end of filming: "It didn't even occur to me that I was even supposed to talk to actors. But since Tim told me to I did and then we dated and we're married and here we are today."
The visual 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.
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 that 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 Beetlejuice is surprised at Lydia wishing to die.
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.
The movie's 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. Tim Burton lost interest in the project, and went on to direct Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992) instead. As late as 2015, Warner Brothers was still trying to get the original sequel concept into production.
Betelgeuse reveals a hideous (albeit unseen) face to Adam and Barbara. Originally, Betelgeuse's "scary face" was going to be seen, and an elaborate make-up effect was created to that end, but ultimately went unused.
The title character is named for a bright red star in the constellation of Orion, Betelgeuse.
The snake scene had been filmed before Michael Keaton was cast as Betelgeuse, and the animatronic snake used bore no resemblance to him. 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 Betelgeus, and not some random monster from the afterlife.
Along with Spaceballs (1987), Big (1988) and Caddyshack II (1988), it is notable for containing the "F" word in a film rated PG during the PG-13 era.
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.
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 released in theaters, the scene created the illusion that the living and dead audiences could see each other. 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 (a.k.a. The Blues Brothers)
The casting of Lydia came down to just two actresses, namely, Winona Ryder and Alyssa Milano, with Ryder ultimately landing the role.
When Barbara holds up Adam's severed head, Alec Baldwin was kneeling behind a black show card that was cut round his chin.
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.
Beetlejuice, the title character, doesn't appear until twenty-five minutes into the film and ultimately appears in less than twenty percent of the film in its entirety. Michael Keaton spent only two weeks filming.
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 house, 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.
Michael Keaton based his performance of Beetlejuice on Chop Top from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986).
In the first waiting room scene, several methods of death are shown: A camper who was bitten by a rattlesnake, 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.
According to Tim Burton, it took a lot of time to convince cast members to sign, as they thought the script was too weird. Geena Davis was the only cast member who would commit to the project at first. 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 Keaton to meet with Burton. Once Keaton said yes, Burton personally called Sidney and begged her to do the movie, and he flew out to meet with O'Hara to convince her.
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 co-wrote and produced.
Set in Connecticut, the movie was 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 for the scene was built on Chicken Farm Road near the village. The Maitlands' house was a façade built in a farm field one hundred yards uphill from the bridge for exterior shots only. The town post office, the "nice building" with the "bad roof," is visible from the field.
The success of the film spawned an animated series that premiered one year after the film was released. Though it doesn't use a lot of what was in the film itself, it still uses subtle references, such as when Beetlejuice slapped a metal plate over Claire Brewster's mouth in one episode just like he did to Barbara in the film.
Betelgeuse's TV commercial was a spoof of Cal Worthington, a car dealer known for a series of offbeat late-night TV commercials on the West Coast featuring "my dog Spot" (which was never a dog, but usually an exotic animal instead). At the time of this film's release, Worthington made $316.8 million, making him at the time the largest single owner of a car dealership chain.
Otho recites lines from the poem "The Warning" by Thomas Lovell Beddoes while he is resurrecting the Maitlands.
When Adam and Barbara look in the mirror and can't see their reflections, it's Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin looking into the set with the glass removed and the fireplace turned around to the opposite side.
Originally Michael Keaton refused the role because he "just didn't get it." Eventually however he came around after meeting Tim Burton and seeing Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985).
Beetlejuice is headed to Broadway March 2019 after pre-Broadway at the National Theater in Washington, D.C. starting mid-October 2018.
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.
Although the character's true name is Betelgeuse, it was spelled "Beetlejuice" in the title because it's funnier and markets better.
The logo joke (a ghoulish version of the Banana Boat song) was added during post-production.
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 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 with the tagline "Images of the Afterlife"
A toy line was released in conjunction with the film and featured action figures of most of Beetlejuice's incarnations as well as 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).
Producer Jon Peters thought of casting controversial comedian Sam Kinison as Beetlegeuse, but Kinison's agent never told him about it.
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.
In the scene where Adam and Barbara transform, the clay sculptures took one week to create.
According to Producer, Larry Wilson, the original ending was significantly darker, ending with Winona Ryder's Lydia dying in a fire and joining her friends in the afterlife. They changed it after considering the message it would send to young people that death would be a happy ending.
The scene were Betelgeuse eats the fly is a tribute to the horror film The Fly (1958). Geena Davis starred in The Fly (1986). Michael Keaton himself was offered the lead role in "The Fly" and turned it down. When Betelguese pulls the fly underground you can hear the fly scream the famous line from that film, "Help me! Help me!"
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.
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, Linda Blair, Goldie Hawn, Laura Dern, and Linda Hamilton were also considered for the role.
Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams, Christopher Lloyd, Jim Carrey, Tim Curry, Jack Nicholson, Bill Murray, Robert DeNiro and John Cleese were all considered to play Betelgeuse.
Heather Langenkamp was considered for the role of Lydia after Tim Burton saw her in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Langenkamp turned the part down because she didn't want to play a goth girl.
Included among the American Film Institute's 2000 list of the Top 100 Funniest American Movies.
Adam's black and white checkered shirt is the same one worn by Tom Selleck in Three Men and a Baby (1987).
The idea for the movie came after Poltergeist was a hit movie, but the idea of bad ghosts was flipped. The people who moved into the house would be the awful ones.
Miss Argentina's full sash can be seen with the year "1939." As the movie is set in 1988, she has been working as the netherworld receptionist for forty-nine years.
Seth Grahame-Smith, who wrote "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" and who has worked with Tim Burton on an adaptation of "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" and the big screen revamp of "Dark Shadows", is working on a "Beetlejuice" sequel. It is assumed that the script he's developing is not set in Hawaii, like Tim Burton wanted in the 90's.
Charles mentions having commissioned a "talking Marcel Marceau statue". Marcel Marceau was a famous mime, and mimes are notoriously silent.
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.
Anjelica Huston was originally meant to be Delia, but she was ill and couldn't come in for filming.
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).
Beetlejuice's black and white striped outfit suggests he is a prisoner to the curse that's befallen him.
Otho Fenlock was named after Otho, a Roman Emperor of only three months; January 15th to April 16th, 69 A.D.
At about 11 minutes in, the audience (partly) see Beetlejuice reading "The Afterlife" newspaper. In the obituary section there are pictures of the Maitlands wearing exactly what they died in, along with the implication that the other pictures of the deceased are wearing what they died in as well. Unlike the obituaries in the newspaper of the living where the family members choose which photo to use. This suggests that the paper is supernatural along with everything else in the afterlife rather than someone putting it together, especially since the Maitlands haven't crossed through the door yet to the waiting room.
Lydia's age is never stated, but Winona Ryder was 17 when the movie was filmed, and Barbara refers to Lydia as a "little girl". So it's possible the character is supposed to be about 13-16.
The football players bothering Juno are a reference to the 1970 crash of Southern Airways Flight 932, which took the lives of thirty-seven players of the Marshall University football team, along with eight of the coaching staff and twenty-five boosters. While the Marshall school colors are green and white, the team is wearing red uniforms.
Tim Burton, production designer Bo Welch and producer Richard Hashimoto travelled the entire state of Vermont looking for the right house to fit the Maitland home.
Charles Deetz is shown reading a magazine called "The Living and the Dead". The interior of the book is an issue of Macworld from January 1988. The original prop was sold on Heritage Auctions for $1,375.
When Adam and Barbara are exchanging gifts the wrapping paper that Barbara takes off hers has beetles on it.
Charles screams at Delia and Otho not to touch his new office. They took him literally, the Maitlands wedding picture is still on the book case.
The film had a medium budget, so most of the VFX were done in-camera; the sandworms and the space scenes were achieved in post-production.
In Spain both the movie and Keaton's character were named as "Bitelchús", following the pronunciation of Betelgeuse/Beetlejuice.
When Beetlejuice turns into a merry-go-round, Michael Keaton has bat wings on his ears. Keaton's next films with Tim Burton were Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992).
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 worked together on Batman (1989), for which Furst won an Academy Award.
Adam and Barbara are inspired by Barbra and Johnny from the opening scene of Night of the Living Dead. Lydia also mentions NOTLD when she firsts meets the two. Charles is also seen reading "The Living and the Dead", a magazine that shares a similar title.
Tim Burton wanted Sammy Davis, Jr. for the title role as the Betelgeuse character was drastically different than what ended up on screen. Originally conceived as a winged and demonic presence, taking human form as a small Middle Eastern man, subsequent drafts made him more African American, and he spoke in a kind of pidgin dialect.
It is hinted throughout the movie that Lydia could be suffering from depression, particularly when Lydia writes a suicide note to Adam and Barbara that she feels utterly alone.
There was originally a scene where Lydia was developing photos of Adam and Barbara in Delia's bed sheets and tries to show them to her dad. There was also supposed to be another encounter with the sandworm when Adam and Barbara were hiding from the Deetzes.
Betelgeuse momentarily controls Barbara, having her say in his voice, "Learn to throw your voice! Fool your friends! Fun at parties!" Forshadowing the dinner party.
Betelgeuse mentions he hates sandworms when reading the newspaper, and again when he first meets the Maitlands. Barbara manages to land a good punch on the sandworm the first time it attacks her. Her ability to handle the creature better than the rest of the cast comes in handy later on in the film.
At a Q&A session for "The Founder," Michael Keaton was asked what was clearly a familiar question: would there ever be a sequel to Beetlejuice? Co-star B.J. Novak then suggested that they simply say "Beetlejuice" three times and the sequel would materialize, to great laughter from Keaton and the other actors on stage. Novak was referring to how characters in the film summoned Beetlejuice to "help" them.
Betelgeuse ( Michael Keaton ) says, "I've seen The Exorcist (1973) about a hundred and sixty-seven times, and it keeps getting funnier every single time I see it!" Geena Davis (Barbara Maitland) later starred as Angela Rance (the adult Regan MacNeil) in the television adaptation The Exorcist (2016).
When Adam finds the advert for Betelgeuse, he actually says the name three times, but because he pronounces it "Bay-til Guy-ce", the incantation doesn't work.
Beetlejuice never speaks his own name. It's implied he can't -- otherwise, he could summon himself whenever he wanted. This might be part of the reason he gives himself alternate personas in the cartoon, like Grimdiana Bones, Uncle BJ, and Sherlock Homely to name a few.
21 years before Coraline (2009), Tim Burton placed a doll in Coraline's room to spy on her for the Beldam. The doll is exact replica of Lydia. Since Lydia does dislike her parents. In the scene where Lydia is lying on her bed listening to the moans of the Maitland's in their sheets, the doll is lying on the floor opposite the bed in a similar posture as Lydia. Interesting similarities between the two movies.
Betelgeuse name is often misspelled because he doesn't want to be summoned by every person that happens upon his name and unintentionally says it three times while trying to pronounce it. The Maitlands only learn how to pronounce it once he broadcasts a commercial specifically to them.
When Betelgeuse appears to the Maitlands in a TV ad, he's performing in the model's cemetery, long before it's even revealed he's in the model.
Though Otho and Delia couldn't see it, Barbara hanging on a noose in the closet when she rips her face off, foreshadows the scene where they all bust upstairs after the presentation, and Delia threatens to "drag them out by the ropes they hanged themselves with".
Despite appearing in the commercial ad on the TV, Betelgeuse doesn't actually appear fully until 1hr 8mins. into the movie
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.
When Barbara is frustrated after failing to scare the Deetzes, she says to Adam: "What's the good of being a ghost if you can't frighten people away?" When she says this Mr. Deetz is reading a magazine with an add on the back that states: "Hands-On Experience Required." This is a subtle allusion to the importance of Beetlejuice in the film's plot, and something the Maitlands don't have, due to their being recently deceased.
When Adam and Barbara are sitting next to the model before Jane arrives, they are directly next to a covered bridge on the model.
In the first scene, Adam receives a Harry Bellefonte cassette in the mail. "The Banana Boat Song" is even briefly heard early on in the film after Adam and Barbara just died. The same song plays during Delia's dinner party later on in the film.
During the 'corny ghost sheet scene', the Maitlands glide through the room while trying to be spooky instead of the standard bobbing motion they do when walking like living people, leading into Lydia's "no feet" comment when looking at the photos she took.
The TV show "Community," which started airing over 20 years after the release of Beetle Juice, staged an elaborate but extremely subtle multi-year tribute to the movie. During the first three seasons of the show, a character said the word "beetlejuice" once a season until, just after the third-season mention, an extra in a "Beetlejuice" Halloween costume walks by in the background. This is a reference to the idea established in the movie that if you say Beetlejuice's name three times, he will appear.
Among the times the number 3 was used, if you look at Beetlejuice's left wrist as he is "tanning" on the roof of Dante's Inferno, you'll see he's wearing 3 watches. Another noted usage is at the end of the film when Beetlejuice is in the waiting room. You can see he is 4th in line which means there are 3 others ahead of him.
Jeffrey Jones (Charles Deetz) and Winona Ryder (Lydia Deetz) appeared in The Crucible (1996).
During the dinner party, Otho mentions he used to be a paranormal researcher in New York before the market collapses, and he makes a joke that people who commit suicide become civil servants in the afterlife. This reveals that Otho has legitimate knowledge of the supernatural, which comes into play in the film's climax.
The tune Charles whistles just before he begins bird watching is from Franz von Suppe's "Light Cavalry Overture."
Adam's bird head almost resembles the character Gogo Dodo from the Warner Bros. cartoon Tiny Toon Adventures (1990).
Charles refers to a photo of Adam, saying that he reminds him of Spencer Tracy. Tracy was second-billed under Sylvia Sidney (Juno) in the film Fury (1936).
Beetlejuice eats a fly. Geena Davis was in the remake of The Fly (1986), which Tim Burton was originally slated to direct with Michael Keaton as Seth Brundle.
Delia makes note that someone at her dinner party has written in Art in America. By the end of the film, she has an issue framed of her on the cover with the headline: "Images of the Afterlife", and features the sculptures that attacked her and Charles.
Juno's beeper (or alarm) sound on her watch is from Chopin's Funeral March (Sonata Op. 35, movement 3).
The Deetz's remodel included an outdoor deck with a wall that frames the fields in the background so it looks like a landscape painting.
When the Maitlins drive to the store, the dog that crosses in front of their car is the one that causes their death in the next scene.
Betelgeuse resembles the Batman villian The Joker, with the green hair and white skin, a year later Michael Keaton was in Batman (1989) as the titular character with Jack Nicholson playing The Joker.
Features one Oscar winner: Geena Davis, and four Oscar nominees: Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder, Alec Baldwin, and Silvia Sydney,
Tim Burton's ghost story Beetlejuice took place in Connecticut, but it was actually filmed in East Corinth, Vermont, which many viewers have pointed out. That house on a hill was only a facade built for the movie and later torn down. The various sets inside the house were created on a sound stage in Culver City, California, and designed by Bo Welch, who worked as a production designer on other feature motion pictures with Director Tim Burton such as "Edward Scissorhands" and "Men in Black." Welch married actress Catherine O'Hara, who played Delia Deetz, 1992 and they are still married as of March 2021.
Tim Burton: [distorted female face] One of Barbara's early attempts to scare off intruders, and her mouth "zipped" during the climax.
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.