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Beetlejuice 2: What's Going On With The Potential Sequel

As amazing as it is to know that Michael Keaton is reprising Batman in the upcoming Flash movie, a character I would be even more amused to see him return to is the title role of Beetlejuice (which is actually spelled as the less marketable “Betelgeuse”). Fans of Tim Burton movies - especially his extremely inventive cult horror-comedy movie - have been wondering for years if “the ghost with the most” will ever be granted more screen time than his mere 17 minutes in the original from 1988. 

Yet, it looks like it might take more than saying his name three times to get Beetlejuice 2 out of the waiting room in the afterlife and, to figure out why, we will start from the very beginning.  

Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Talk Of A Beetlejuice Sequel First Came To Life In 1990

The surprise critical and commercial success of Beetlejuice spawned an animated TV series, video games, and, naturally, demand for a sequel. According to ScreenRant, in 1990, Tim Burton hired future Mars Attacks! screenwriter Jonathan Gems to pen a follow-up called Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian, in which the Deetz Family (played by Beetlejuice cast members Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O’Hara, and Winona Ryder) try to develop a tropical resort over the burial ground for an ancient Kahuna whom Michael Keaton’s character accidentally resurrects. The idea was to combine the first movie’s German expressionism-inspired style with the tone of a 1960s beach movie.

However, Keaton and Burton’s commitment to Batman Returns prevented the project from picking up steam. Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian would go through multiple drafts with several other writers for years before Warner Bros. approached Kevin Smith in 1996. As the Clerks director recalled on his 2002 special An Evening with Kevin Smith, he politely declined the offer in favor of tackling another doomed Burton project, Superman Lives. The following year, The Geffen Company put Beetlejuice 2 in limbo.

Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis in sheets in Beetlejuice

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Warner Bros. Tapped Seth Grahame-Smith To Revive Beetlejuice 2 In 2011

The Beetlejuice sequel showed its first sign of life in more than a decade when its most promising potential screenwriter was announced. In September 2011, Deadline reported that Seth Grahame-Smith and producing partner David Katzenberg signed a deal with Warner Bros. that would apparently include making Beetlejuice 2 a reality, which Grahame-Smith would pen. The writer and producer had already begun building his professional relationship with Tim Burton on an adaptation of his novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and a humorous remake of the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows - both of which came out in 2012.

That same year, Grahame-Smith had a meeting with none other than Michael Keaton, and later told Shock Till You Drop (via ComingSoon.net) that the actor has been game to bring his creepiest character back from he dead since the beginning. However, he also agreed with the writer that they should not move forward with Beetlejuice 2 if it meant it would “shit on the legacy.” That was not enough to put a stake in the follow-up just yet.

Winona Ryder as Lydia Deetz in Beetlejuice

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Winona Ryder Seemed To Confirm Beetlejuice 2 Was Still Alive In 2015

A year after Michael Keaton personally told MTV News that he was interested in reprising Betelgeuse and Tim Burton confessed to the same outlet how much he missed working with the Birdman actor and Winona Ryder, too, the Oscar nominated actress herself seemed to drop a juicy detail about her involvement with Beetlejuice 2. During an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers in August 2015, Ryder was asked by the host if she could comment on the potential sequel and had this to say:

Um, I think I can confirm it, because Tim Burton did this interview — like, it was very hush hush, top secret … and then he was doing some press for Big Eyes and he did an on-camera interview and he said, ‘Oh yeah we’re doing it and Winona’s going to be in it,’ and I was like [shocked face].

The future Stranger Things star would then admit that she really only knew as much as anyone else did about the project, but it was still enough to get Beetlejuice fans riled up faster than a Harry Belafonte song could. However, when talking to Collider in May 2016, Tim Burton stated that nothing was still quite “concrete” with the sequel, stressing his commitment to getting all the elements right. Apparently, that Seth Grahame-Smith’s screenplay was not getting the results they needed.

Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis in Beetlejuice

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Warner Bros. Hired A New Writer To Put Beetlejuice 2 On Life Support In 2017

Around the time that Michael Keaton and Tim Burton were preparing their long-awaited reunion with Disney’s live-action remake of Dumbo, a new development in the almost equally long-awaited Beetlejuice 2 came to life. According to a Deadline exclusive published in October 2017, Warner Bros. had tapped someone new to take over screenwriting duties for Seth Grahame-Smith.

The new hire was Mike Vukadinovich, who had just debuted that year with a horror film he wrote and produced called Rememory - starring Game of Thrones cast member Peter Dinklage, and the late Anton Yelchin - before being brought on as a story editor for Marvel’s Runaways TV show on Hulu. This would be the last we heard of the writer’s involvement - not to mention the last development we heard about Beetlejuice 2 for a while.

The Day-O scene from Beetlejuice

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Tim Burton Casted Doubt On Beetlejuice 2’s Mortality In 2019

Just barely breaking the silence on the status of Beetlejuice 2 was Tim Burton himself. While promoting the release of Dumbo in April 2019, USA Today asked the filmmaker what was happening with the movie and he literally mumbled, “Nothing, nothing.” When asked to elaborate on if the project was still happening, he replied, “I don’t know. I doubt it,” before waving off any further questions on the topic.

Well, that seems to be final nail in the coffin for Beetlejuice 2. In fact, it was not even the first time someone involved with the film had expressed doubt, as Michael Keaton told Variety that he was convinced of the possibility that “the ship [had] sailed” three years earlier. It was only two years later when we finally heard something of an update from none other than Seth Grahame-Smith.

Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

In 2021, Seth Grahame-Smith Commented On Why Beetlejuice 2 Is In Limbo

When Mike Vukadinovich was brought on to pick up the pieces of Beetlejuice 2, it was a bit of shock, as there had not been any official announcement of Seth Grahame-Smith’s exit or any official reason why. Well, we got the closest to an explanation we may ever get when the writer spoke to Collider on the matter and had this to say:

It’s funny, when I had met with Tim about it last, and we’re talking about five years ago at this point, the reason that it’s so hard to get going is because so many people love it and because there are 10 million ways to get that sequel wrong and four ways to get it right. It’s such a very fine needle to thread that I certainly like didn’t get it there, on the script side. I didn’t thread the needle. There are things that were cool and some interesting ideas. I’ve certainly emotionally moved on from it and just said, ‘If it happens someday, it happens.’

I would actually call this a positive note to end on with the legacy of Beetlejuice 2 so far. For one, we know that there was never any attempt to make the sequel without being absolutely sure it was ready and, secondly, Grahame-Smith still seems open to its potential despite how difficult a challenge it has proved for him and many others.

For however long Beetlejuice 2 remains in limbo, with countless rewatches fans still enjoy to this day, the success of the Tony Award-nominated Broadway musical adaptation, and other ways it still celebrated, at least we know that the love for the original is eternal. Until we can officially say, “It’s showtime!” that might be all Beetlejuice fans really need.

Jason Wiese

Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.