More time in limbo for Beetlejuice sequel

Remember the scene in 1988’s Beetlejuice where Michael Keaton’s obnoxious title character is stuck sitting in the afterlife waiting room?

That might sum up the forever-stalled state of the movie’s sequel, which has refused to fully die or go forward since director Tim Burton’s fantasy drama hit three decades ago.

Michael Keaton in 1988 film Beetlejuice.
Michael Keaton in 1988 film Beetlejuice.  (via imdb.com)

Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis, you’ll recall, played a recently deceased ghost couple trying to chase human occupants out of their quaint Connecticut home. They befriend the Goth teen Lydia (Winona Ryder), who unwittingly unleashes the full power of Keaton’s demon.

Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian, which changed the locale to a tropical island, was greenlit after the original film made $ 74 million US, but never went into production. Ryder confirmed a Beetlejuice sequel on Late Night With Seth Meyers in 2015. Then crickets.

In 2017, industry news site Deadline reported that a new screenwriter was hired to write a script in time for the film’s 30th anniversary. Then silence.

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But the sequel talk has kicked back up again with a Beetlejuice musical on Broadway (opening April 25), as well as Burton reuniting with Keaton for the live-action Dumbo (in theatres now).

When USA Today asked Burton what’s going on with the Beetlejuice sequel during an interview for Dumbo, he mumbled, “Nothing, nothing.”

But is Beetlejuice 2 going to happen?

“I don’t know. I doubt it,” Burton said, and waved off further questions.

Keaton didn’t address the sequel directly, but didn’t sound like an actor ready to step back into the part, calling Beetlejuice both “lightning in a bottle” and “unique” during a Dumbo news conference.

Thus far, there’s been an animated Beetlejuice TV series (1989-1991), video games and now a stage production, but no sequel.

Warner Bros. has shelved the project, with studio spokeswoman Candice McDonough telling USA Today “the project isn’t in active development.”

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Larry Wilson, one of the original Beetlejuice screenwriters, has watched the sequel discussions ebb and flow over 30 years.

“The bottom line is Tim Burton and Michael Keaton are not going to think about a Beetlejuice sequel unless it somehow catches the energy of the first film. And that’s not easy,” says Wilson. “Beetlejuice really was lightning in a bottle. But there have been discussions since it really shocked everyone in 1988. And in terms of Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian, wiser heads prevailed. Thank God there’s a level of integrity here.”

Wilson is planning to attend the Broadway production’s gala premiere to revel in the new direction. He’ll see how the conversation goes from there.

“I don’t sit around in a bathrobe, watching Beetlejuice and waiting for a sequel,” he says. “But all eyes are going to be on that opening night. It seems like they have really reinvented the movie and it’s looking like a real hit. So we’ll sit tight until then.”

TORONTO STAR