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Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! How to Summon the After-Life’s Hottest Bio-Exorcist

5 Minute Read
Mar 28 2024
beetlejuice 1988 key art

Watch out for sandworms and reference your Handbook for the Recently Deceased. We’re summoning Beetlejuice. Beetlejuice. Beetlej

There are a few movies from the late 80s and early 90s that are so popular and recognizable to this day that they keep coming back around. Is it nostalgia? Is it studios’ refusal to risk a lot of money on something new? Or is it just that these classics are that good? With Beetlejuice, it may be a little of all three.

1988’s Beetlejuice

Despite a March 1988 release, Beetlejuice may just be one of the most perfect pseudo-family-friendly movies to throw on in October. It’s the story of how Barbara and Adam tragically die and then return to their home to haunt it… Until the Deetz family moves in with a spooky teenage daughter, Lydia. So they hire freelance bio-exorcist Beetlejuice to be a general nuisance and scare the living family away. Only he’s horrible and Lydia is actually pretty cool. So, y’know, hijinks ensue.

It’s also a movie with an absolutely stacked cast. Winona Rider plays Lydia Deetz with a pre-felony-charges Jeffrey Jones and Catherine O’Hara as her father and stepmother. The ghostly couple looking to keep their home is played by Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin—though if you said you didn’t recognize Baldwin, I’d understand. And of course, Michael Keaton starred as the title poltergeist.

“I my self am strange and unusual.”

– Lydia Deetz, Beetlejuice

Since its 1988 premiere, Beetlejuice has been spun off as an animated series, a Broadway musical, video games, an uncountable number of references and guest appearances in other media, and of course the upcoming 2024 sequel. I want to say that Beetlejuice is a cult classic, but it’s really just a classic… and it’s still being revisited and reproduced.

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The Story of Production

The original script written by Michael McDowell, Larry Wilson, and Michael Bender was pretty different and a little darker than the final version of Beetlejuice we know today. The Maintland’s death at the beginning of the movie was written to be more graphic, and Beetlejuice himself appeared as a winged demon and then a Middle Eastern man. Instead of trying to scare off the Deetzes, he wanted to kill them. And while we know that saying his name three times will summon him, originally he had to be exhumed.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Warren Skaaren gave the original script some major re-writes, toning down the graphic content and shifting the tone to a more comedic one. He was also by and large responsible for the version of purgatory shown in Beetlejuice, including the sandworm.


And after many re-writes, Tim Burton—who had been busy with other projects but was freshly deemed “bankable” by studios after the success of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure—was able to direct.

Sammy Davis Jr., Dudley Moore, and Sam Kinison were all suggested for the role of Beetlejuice, but in the end, they decided on Keaton. While Sarah Jessica Parker, Brooke Shields, Molly Ringwald, Jennifer Connelly, and Alyssa Milano were all considered for Lydia Deetz.

The visual effects budget for Beetlejuice was just $1 million of the $15 million total budget. But this made sense as Burton’s goal was to make it look just a little cheesy and fake. His inspiration was the B movies of his youth.

The 2024 Sequel

Most of the original cast will be returning for upcoming sequel Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice as well as new cast members. Jenna Ortega will star as Lydia’s daughter Astrid Deetz, and the film will also feature Justin Theroux and Willem Dafoe.

The Beetlejuice sequel has been in some stage of development since 1990 when Tim Burton batted around the idea of Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian. But in 2011 there was some real movement when Seth Grahame-Smith was hired to work with Burton on a script. And then in 2013 when Ryder hinted that something was almost definitely in the works.


The film itself was filmed in 2022 but was paused with just a few days left in production for the 203 SAG-AFTRA strike. Four days after the strike ended, filming began again in Massachusetts and Vermont before finally finishing in late November.

The Broadway Musical

Beetlejuice has also taken to the stage as a musical starting in 2016. Much of the plot is more or less identical, and some of the most iconic music from the movie was even included in the stage production. Beetlejuice has seen a lot of critical acclaim, earning multiple nominations (eight Tonys) and even won a few awards.

beetlejuice 2024 deetz family
via Warner Bros.

How Old is Beetlejuice?

The movie is 35 years old.

The character’s age isn’t clearly known, but he could be in the area of 600 years old. This is based on the line from the original film “I’m feeling a little anxious, if you know what I mean. It’s been about 600 years.”

via Warner Bros.

Why Can’t Beetlejuice Tell People His Name?

There doesn’t seem to be a reason ever necessarily given, but it’s been assumed that he’s under some sort of curse.

Who Plays Beetlejuice?

Michael Keaton.


Is It ‘Beetlejuice’ or ‘Betelgeuse’?

Betelgeuse is a red supergiant star in the constellation Orion. The movie is called ‘Beetlejuice‘. But within the film we see Beetlejuice writing his name as “Betelgeuse.” Whether this is a purposeful misspelling of the title for whimsy’s sake, or he can’t properly write out his name the same way he can’t say it is unknown and up to audience interpretation.

beetlejuice 1988 key art
via Warner Bros.

What Is ‘The Handbook for the Recently Deceased?

It’s the guidebook for new spirits to help guide them through the afterlife.

What’s the Deal With the Sandworms In Beetlejuicce? Are They Different From the Sandworms in Dune?

The sandworms are gigantic black and white worms that chase spirits caught in Limbo. They aren’t directly related to the sandworms from Dune, but the Dune worms likely served as blueprint for similar creatures… such as the Beetlejuice sandworms.

Happy adventuring!

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