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Who’s the ghost with the most?Beetlejuice, of course!


By Tara Bailey

→ Did you know the 1988 comedy-horror film “Beetlejuice” was not originally written about a hilarious and mischievous poltergeist? Co-screenwriter Michael McDowell created the infamous character portrayed by “Forest Grove” native Michael Keaton. McDowell’s vision of Beetlejuice was much darker and stranger than the Tim Burton creature most audiences are familiar with.

→ Did you know in the earliest script, McDowell portrayed Beetlejuice as a winged demon? McDowell imagined Beetlejuice to be a short, Middle Eastern man who uses racist language. Similarly to the final movie, the ghosts of Barbara and Adam Maitland, played by actors Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin, seek counsel with Beetlejuice on how they can remove the Deetz family who have moved into their home. The differences between McDowell’s vision and the eventual movie directed by Tim Burton begin with the cast of characters. Unlike the movie, Beetlejuice did not have any interest in marrying the sixteen-year-old Lydia Deetz. Instead, he had more sinister, upsetting and unsavory plans for Lydia.

After the Maitlands’ parlor tricks to scare away the Deetz family go awry, Beetlejuice devises a plot to become a rockstar named Danny Death to lure Lydia into his web of deceit. Beetlejuice’s intentions to cause grave harm to the Deetz family in McDowell’s version is a stark contrast to what was eventually depicted on film. The final scene in the original script was also different, with Beetlejuice meeting his demise by exploding instead of being eaten alive by a giant sandworm.

→ Did you know the co-screenwriter Walter Skaaren made re-writes to the “Beetlejuice” script to add comedic elements? Skaaren added a dash of panache to balance out the film’s original savagery. He also expounded on the rules for summoning Beetlejuice. In the first script, Beetlejuice’s grave needed to be excavated for him to appear. Skaaren had the brilliant idea of having the Maitland’s say Beetlejuice’s name three times for him to make his grand appearance. This is long before the 1992 horror movie “Candyman” captivated audiences by daring them to say the character’s name five times in the mirror.

→Did you know the Beetlejuice character doesn’t appear until 25 minutes into the film? It’s hard to fathom because Robinson-born actor Keaton did a magnificent job portraying the ostentatious poltergeist. Keaton only has a total of seventeen minutes on film, less than twenty percent of the film’s entirety. Keaton’s unforgettable performance overshadows all the other characters and solidified his character in cult classic history.

→ Did you know Keaton was not the first choice for the casting of Beetlejuice? Tim Burton wanted Sammy Davis Jr., the “Candyman” singer, to play Beetlejuice. Ultimately, producer David Geffen made the decision to cast Michael Keaton in the role.

→Did you know Betelgeuse is the name of the brightest star in the Orion constellation? The name Betelgeuse is a rough translation of the Arabic phrase “Armpit of the Central One.” According to the Orion Tour Center website, this red supergiant star’s diameter is 700 times the size of the Sun, or 600 million miles. states McDowell may have drawn inspiration for his character’s name from the supergiant. Whether it’s fact or fiction, the reasoning behind the name seems to be a fitting title for the movie and the supergiant actor Michael Keaton. Rumor has it that Tim Burton may have the long-awaited sequel in the works to present to comedy and horror fans alike.



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