For a quirky little comedy about ghosts, Beetlejuice has done quite well establishing itself as a timeless classic. Not only was it one of director Tim Burton’s seminal early works, it also features excellent performances from Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder, Alec Baldwin, and more. Made on a modest budget in 1988, the film raked in $73 million (160 million adjusted for inflation) and was the 10th biggest box office hit of the year.
Let’s take a look back on the movie and some of the lesser known facts about how it was made and whether a Beetlejuice sequel is actually going to happen.
How the cast came together.
Tim Burton had to work his ass off to get all the actors he wanted for Beetlejuice. Geena Davis was on board from the start, but Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara, and Michael Keaton all initially passed on the film. The director ended up flying out to meet O’Hara and convince her to take the part. Catherine O’Hara wasn’t originally set to be in the movie at all – the role of Delia Deetz went to Anjelica Huston initially, but she had to withdraw from the film due to illness.
The role of goth teenager Lydia Deetz was difficult to fill, as well… Sarah Jessica Parker, Brooke Shields, Jennifer Connelly, and Molly Ringwald all turned down the role. Juliette Lewis auditioned for the part, as well, but it ended up going to a 16-year-old Winona Ryder after Burton saw her acting debut in the 1986 coming of age flick Lucas.
Burton stacked the cast with his favorite celebrities from previous eras. ’60s crooner Robert Goulet and talk show host Dick Cavett were given roles as the Deetz’s snobby friends, and Tim has said he hounded ’30s actress Sylvia Sidney incessantly until she agreed to play the salty undead social worker Juno. Burton also had his eyes on another singer for a key role: He originally wanted Rat Pack member Sammy Davis, Jr. to play Beetlejuice.
Sammy Davis, Jr. wasn’t the only unique casting option for Beetlejuice. Producers also considered Dudley Moore (of Arthur and “10” fame) and comedian Sam Kinison for the role (Kinison’s manager never bothered to inform him of the studio’s interest). Studio head David Geffen of Geffen Records and Geffen Pictures fame lobbied for Michael Keaton, who was best known at the time for his role in the romantic comedy Mr. Mom. Tim Burton was sold after meeting Keaton, so much so that he brought Keaton on board to be his Batman.