Beetlejuice is coming back from the dead some twenty years after one of the most infamous sequel attempts in Hollywood history when, and this is no word of a lie, Warner Bros paid a screenwriter to scribe a follow-up to the 1988 classic that would send the pale faced ghoul for hire to Hawaii. The movie was even to be called ‘Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian‘ and was director Tim Burton’s mischievous idea for a sequel he never really wanted to make, screenwriter Jonathan Gems musing after the fact;
“Tim thought it would be funny to match the surfing backdrop of a beach movie with some sort of German Expressionism, because they’re totally wrong together”
The movie announced in 1990 would have been a direct sequel (with all the actors back) following the Deetz family moving to Hawaii where Charles is developing a holiday resort only to find it was being built on an ancient Hawaiian Kahuna burial ground, which brought back spirits from the afterlife and it would work much the same way as the original. With one exception of course… Beetlejuice would win a surfing contest with magic!
The poster for the movie might have looked something like this;
That movie didn’t happen and for good reason but with Warner Bros desperate for a sequel to the $50 million PROFIT hit (budgeted at $13 million but grossed $73 million) they continued to hire and approach many more writers to crack a sequel after Burton had moved on, even at one time offering Clerks helmer Kevin Smith the job but who would ultimately pass (“Didn’t we say all we needed to say in the first Beetlejuice? Must we go tropical?”) but they then started to hit trouble with rights issues with the Geffen Company, who own copyright, ending all sequels attempts 14 years ago. In 2011, those rights issues haven’t yet been resolved but today’s announcement would suggest they are finally close to getting a Beetlejuice 2 off the ground…
Deadline say Seth Grahame-Smith (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Dark Shadows) and David Katzenberg (son of DreamWorks Animation Chief Jeffrey Katzenberg) have just signed on to write a Beetlejuice sequel (or probably more accurately a ‘reboot’ with the intention of a new franchise but we are told it won’t be a ‘remake’) as part of a ‘first look feature producing’ two year deal with Warner Bros under the shingle name KatzSmith Productions.
Officially the duo have been tasked with “advancing the storyline of the original” which is that vague Hollywood term they use when they don’t actually know what they want to do themselves yet and have just let the screenwriters run wild, and they will greenlight it if they like it.
Michael Keaton won’t be reprising Beetlejuice, sadly. No Alec Baldwin, Winona Ryder, Geena Davis either. In fact nobody from the original will be in this as their fresh faced modern counterparts will be used instead and the film most likely won’t be directed by Tim Burton as he hates sequels. However he has given his blessing to Grahame-Smith/Katzenberg to come up with a sequel, so clearly Burton isn’t adverse to cashing the paycheck for no work – John Carpenter style.
Grahame-Smith/Katzenberg together created the MTV series The Hard Times of RJ Berger and Grahame-Smith has become a powerful scribe in the industry with his Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter re-imagining impressing Tim Burton (who produced the movie for Timur Bekmambetov to direct that Fox releases June 22nd, 2012) enough to let him write his Dark Shadows. Grahame-Smith is also responsible for kicking off the literary fascination with adding supernatural plot thematics to long out of works classics, something he started with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
In fact at one time Grahame-Smith/Katzenberg were being setup to co-direct David O. Russell’s screenplay for a movie adaptation of the “Jane Austen with the undead” book but eventually it went to Fright Night’s Craig Gillespie. It seems their intent eventually is to get into directing, so presumably they would be the ones behind the camera on Beetlejuice 2 if it gets past the writing stages.
Indeed Katzenberg also has a deal with 20th Century Fox to direct From Mia With Love, a John Hughes style comedy they wrote with Kevin Chesley & Bryan Shukoff about “three high school guys who are looking to lose their virginity before college, hire a Russian mail-order bride and find she has brought a lot of baggage”.
But in terms of their first look WB deal which will be two scripts in two years, one of which seems sure to be Beetlejuice 2, they will be looking at original projects produced via their shingle they hope to be a new Bad Robot;
“We want to make big movies based on big ideas and inspired by the comedies we grew up loving…The thing we like about Bad Robot and Imagine is that they are never pigeonholed because they do good work across a broad spectrum. We want to slowly grow into a company that follows in those footsteps… We pride ourselves on coming up with a lot of our own ideas; about 90% of the projects we’ve generated in film and TV are ones we created and developed. The studio will help us bring our ideas to the finish line.”
WB will have first refusal on;
We Three Kings, the next novel Grahame-Smith is writing that is a re-imagining of the Three Wiseman fable from the Bible (will it involve the undead again… well I guess Jesus eventually) that will be published by Grand Central in April 2012 and he’s already writing the movie script on spec.
Bryantology, about a loser who uses a tax loophole to save losing his home by inventing a religion and calling it a tax-exempt place of worship (hey, I might try that!) but obviously with that brings in the masses who land on his door, believing him to be a cult leader.
Night of the Living (doesn’t that just feel like it’s missing something else on the end of that title?), a stop-motion animated movie about peaceful monsters who learn to fight invading humans that will probably be a co-Tim Burton production after Frankenweenie.
Fire Teddy, a comedy written by Matthew Kaplan & Jason Leinwand about a low-level employee at a big corporation who is ordered to fire Teddy but he’s too nice he can’t do it and instead becomes friends with him! Katzenberg would direct.
And finally an adaptation of Stuart Kaminsky’s novel series about a 40′s Hollywood private eye named Toby Peters.
Is a Beetlejuice sequel a good idea? Not without Michael Keaton, he is the one man it seems impossible to do this movie without but sooner or later Warner Bros were going to go with this and at least the writers hired understand how to shake up original material and make it feel fun and fresh. It seems extremely unlikely their plot will involve Hawaii, to answer our opening title query, that time thankfully has passed…. but you can never say for sure in Hollywood, can you?
This article was first posted on September 7, 2011