Many remember Beetlejuice as a light-hearted blend of macabre and slapstick, but the real story behind Beetlejuice points to a potentially darker what-if. The classic '80s movie is one of the most beloved Tim Burton films and laid the foundation for generations of genre filmmaking. It’s likely that without Beetlejuice, there would be no Nightmare Before Christmas and the path of the Batman franchise could have been completely different.
As great as the movie turned out, it didn’t start out all wine and roses. The secrets of Beetlejuice expose a production that could have gone in any direction. It could have been a disaster, an even more intense spin on The Exorcist, or a subverted reinvention of the haunted house genre.
Screenwriter Michael McDowell Wanted Betelgeuse To Be Much More Sinister
The film ends with Betelgeuse trying to wed Winona Ryder's character, Lydia, in a demented marriage ceremony, but earlier drafts built to a rougher climax. Before Burton and Keaton turned the character into a darkly comic agent of chaos, the character was written as a bloodthirsty demon dead-set on murder and rape.
The movie would land a lot different if it ended in an attempted rape instead of a supernatural shotgun wedding.
Studio Executives Wanted To Call It 'Scared Sheetless'
Decades after the breakout success of Beetlejuice, it seems silly to think that the movie would be called anything else. However, Warner Bros. had some concerns about the title during pre-production. Warner Bros. suggested calling the movie House Ghosts, which is so generic that it almost becomes funny.
Burton allegedly joked that they should call the movie Scared Sheetless, and when studio executives jumped at the idea, Burton had to draw a line in the sand and say that the title wasn't changing.
Winona Ryder Almost Didn't Play Lydia
It's hard to imagine anyone else other than Winona Ryder playing Lydia Beetz. She's one of the most beloved actresses of the '80s and '90s, and she completely embodies the character. During the casting process for Beetlejuice, though, more experienced actresses like Jennifer Connelly and Sarah Jessica Parker were considered front runners.
Things changed when Tim Burton saw Winona Ryder in Lucas and decided that she was the only person who could play the role.
Lydia Almost Had A Sister
In early versions of the script, Lydia wasn't an only child in Beetlejuice. She actually had a straight-laced younger sister named Cathy to serve as a foil to Lydia's goth vibes. It's weird to read an early draft and see Lydia interacting with this character that never survived the final rewrites.
One of the best scenes with the sisters involves the two of them going to see a "death rocker" in New York City before being splattered in blood.