• Film

“Beetlejuice 2”: 36 Years of Waiting is Almost Over

Over thirty years could be an eternity in Hollywood, an industry that praises itself to be ahead of times. And if it’s about a span between a successful movie and its sequel, that period of time could seem unthinkable. But Beetlejuice, created by Tim Burton, wants to prove the contrary.

A recently deceased couple teams up with a mischievous spirit to scare away the new inhabitants of their house is the story of the movie that opened in late March 1988. For more than three decades, this funeral comedy has become one of Hollywood’s most famous ghosts. Literally.

After decades of rumors and speculations, Beetlejuice 2 has been confirmed to start filming this year in England, four years after a musical based on the original movie opened in Broadway, then was suspended by the pandemic, and reopened in 2022. It is currently on a US national tour.

Burton was not directly involved in the musical Beetlejuice, which was created by Eddie Perfect (songs) and Scott Brown and Anthony King (book), and received eight Tony’s nominations in 2019. It was directed by Alex Timbers, co-creator of the Amazon series Mozart in the Jungle which won the 2016 Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy.


Although the film sequel was announced on several occasions, this is the first time that it is “official”: Beetlejuice 2 is set to be theatrically released on September 6th, 2024, by Warner Bros, according to Deadline. That would close perhaps the longest hiatus in Hollywood’s history.

After all these years most of the cast is active and ready to reprise their 1988 roles: Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder and Catherine O’Hara, all of them later Golden Globes winners. And probably with the same director, Burton.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in 2021, Keaton confirmed he created the iconic character look, after turning down the leading role offer twice because he couldn’t understand Burtons’s vision for the 1988 film. “I had no idea what he was talking about, but I liked him,” the actor remembered. “When you see [the movie], you understand probably why it was hard for him to explain.”

However, Keaton asked Burton to give him some time to formulate his idea on what he thought the character should look like, and he did it with the help of the studio’s wardrobe and makeup departments.

“Tim (Burton) never went, ‘Wait, no, you can’t do that.’ He went, ‘Oh, you’re going to do that? Cool… [My character] isn’t even in the movie very much! But it’s 100 percent just an original piece of art”, Keaton said to Entertainment Weekly also in 2021.

Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin will not be back, but two others Golden Globes nominees will join the cast: Jenna Ortega (as Ryder’s daughter) and Willem Dafoe, plus Justin Theroux and Monica Bellucci as Betelgeuse’s wife, with a screenplay by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, based on a story by Seth Grahame-Smith.


Beetlejuice has fans all over the world. The musical also played in Seoul, South Korea in the summer of 2021. The movie has inspired many Carnival and Halloween’s costumes and even urban fashion, becoming a “cult” film for many people as well as a box office success. It grossed US$74.6 million in North America, largely recouping its US$15 million budget.

It was the 7th highest grossing film of 1988, according to The Los Angeles Times, which called it a “sleeper”.  Later it won the Oscar for Best Makeup (1989).

Defined as a “fantasy comedy” for both adults and kids, it was called at the same time “Best Horror Film” by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, and “Favorite Movie” by the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards.

Then why has it taken more than three decades for this crowd pleaser to secure its sequel? To start, this is a big challenge: a comedy about death is a very serious matter, much more so if it is a “chapter two”.

The first planned sequel was on the table in 1990, when Burton asked Jonathan Gems to write a movie titled Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian. But despite many rewrites the project never saw the light. Meanwhile, Burton and Keaton worked again on Batman Returns (1992).

Almost two decades later, in late 2011 Warner Bros. hired Grahame-Smith to write and produce a “new” sequel, and he was adamant that Keaton return in the leading role. “This will be a true 26 or 27 years later sequel. What’s great is that for Beetlejuice time means nothing in the afterlife, but the world outside is a different story,” Grahame-Smith said to Collider in the summer of 2012.

In early 2015 Grahame-Smith told Entertainment Weekly that the script was finished and that he and Burton intended to start filming Beetlejuice 2 by the end of that year, with Keaton and Ryder in their respective roles.

More than a year later, when the sequel has once again up in the air, Burton confessed he was not in a rush, as he explained to Collider, “It’s something that I really would like to do in the right circumstances, but it’s one of those films where it has to be right. It’s not a kind of a movie that cries out [for a sequel], it’s not the Beetlejuice trilogy. So, it’s something that if the elements are right, because I do love the character and Michael’s (Keaton) amazing as that character, so yeah, we’ll see. But there’s nothing concrete yet.”

In the autumn of 2017 Mike Vukadinovich was hired to rewrite the script to bring the everlasting character back to life, physically and spiritually. But a year and a half later, in April 2019 Warner Bros. stated the sequel had been shelved once again.

After the pandemic, in February 2022 the sequel was announced again, this time to be produced by Brad Pitt’s studio Plan B Entertainment, alongside Warner Bros, according to Deadline.

This spring, Deadline reported that actors Keaton, Ryder, Ortega, Dafoe, O’Hara, Bellucci and Theroux were all on board, along with writers Gough and Millar, composer Danny Elfman, and costume designer Colleen Atwood.

Alex Brightman, the actor who just played it on Broadway, had no worries about the timeliness of the character. “Our show… is reminding people about life. It reminds them to live their life because death is imminent, and I think that’s not a bad thing. It’s just about how you choose to live your life. I think a reminder about that is very helpful”, he told to New York Theater Guide in 2019.

Burton has become an expert with successful funeral comedies with both animated and live-action films: The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, Ed Wood, and of course Beetlejuice. He remains as a much respected movie maker, with nominations to the Golden Globes, the Oscars, the Directors Guild of America Award, and the Palme d’Or in Cannes.

In the film, saying the name “Beetlejuice” thrice is the key to summoning him. Will this time really Beetlejuice 2 beat his own spell and finally come back to the screen?