Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! If you’ve ever said the name aloud three times, hoping for a visit from a ghostly demonic trickster, you know the drill. The absolutely unique spirit is an icon in the mysterious realm, in both looks and personality.
That said, it couldn’t have been easy to nail a look like that of Beetlejuice, and in a 2014 interview with Charlie Rose, Michael Keaton shared more about what that process looked like.
At first, Keaton said that he wasn’t sure how to nail the role and the look of Beetlejuice. So much so that he thought the part might not work out at all.
“I had no idea what he was talking about, but I liked him; I said, ‘I wish I could do it. You seem like a really nice guy, and I know you’re creative, but I don’t get it.’”
The thing is, Tim Burton wasn’t going to accept that, so he met with and discussed things with Keaton again. That meeting still didn’t go swimmingly, but they both knew the character, and the story were too important to give up on. So when they met a third time, Keaton had a plan in mind.
“I said, ‘Give me the night or two days,’ and I called the wardrobe department at the studio and said, ‘Send me a bunch of wardrobes from different time periods, randomly. Just pick a rack.’ And then I thought of an idea of teeth and an idea of a walk.”
Keaton told Burton that he had a plan in action and explained it all to him without showing Burton first. That’s right, Keaton just described what he had brainstormed, and they ran with it. He created the look for the character and showed up on set.
“Here’s the amazing part about it: He never saw any of it. We discussed it. I said, ‘I want hair that looks like I stuck my finger in an electrical socket.’ And I said, ‘I want mold because Tim said he lives under rocks,’” Keaton recalled. “So I showed up for work, and I walked on the stage and said, ‘This is either going to be way off the mark, or he’s going to — I don’t know what he’s going to do.”
Since we all know and love Beetlejuice’s unique look, it’s clear that Burton did too. We imagine that was quite the moment for Keaton to experience. Getting to come up with a look for an iconic character and having Burton love it as much as he did.
Here’s to Beetlejuice, Burton, and Keaton.