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Beetlejuice is perhaps one of the most beloved — and bizarre — comedies of the 1980s. The movie has endured for a variety of reasons. But would director Tim Burton’s movie would have been so well-received if it carried its original ending? Here’s the much darker way Beetlejuice nearly sent audiences out of the theater and back to the world of the living.
‘Beetlejuice’ is a macabre crowd-pleaser
Starring Michael Keaton as the titular “ghost with the most,” Burton’s comedy follows a young, “recently deceased” couple, Adam and Barbara Maitland (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis). While the Maitlands are ostensibly the movie’s main characters, fans tend to gravitate most toward Betelgeuse — as its spelled in the movie — and Lydia (Winona Ryder). These two characters even led the animated series loosely inspired by the movie.
And it is Lydia who ultimately brings the darkest elements of Beetlejuice. Dragged to the Maitlands’ small-town home by her father (Jeffrey Jones) and stepmother (Catherine O’Hara), Lydia feels neglected and alone. And at one point her goth sensibility and burgeoning friendship with the Maitlands leave her contemplating suicide. But in the end, she reconsiders and becomes much happier by the end of the film.
The film almost had a much darker ending
According to writer Larry Wilson — who has a story credit on Beetlejuice — Lydia’s story almost concluded in a very different way. In an interview with Yahoo!, Wilson set the record straight about where Burton’s film almost left Lydia and why the writers ultimately decided to go in a very different direction.
“Our first ending was Lydia — she died in a fire and was able to join Barbara and Adam in the afterlife. A couple of people said to us, ‘Do you really think that’s a good idea? Is that really the message you want to be sending to the teenagers of the world? Die in a fire?’ So, yeah, it probably was darker.”
Seeing how many misunderstood kids relate to Ryder‘s performance as Lydia, this was probably a good call. Besides, the themes of Beetlejuice are more about establishing a peaceful co-existence between the lands of the dead and the living. Still, one has to wonder how audiences would have reacted if Wilson and company did go dark.
Could Winona Ryder return for ‘Beetlejuice 2’?
In fact, playing Lydia Deetz has remained a career highlight for Ryder. The actor went on to work with Burton a couple years later on Edward Scissorhands. And she even voiced a character in Burton’s stop-motion animated Frankenweenie. But Ryder has also been one of the most vocal supporters of the long-rumored Beetlejuice 2.
Reports about a sequel have been circulating since 1990, when the project was called Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian. In recent years, Ryder and Keaton have been adamant about wanting to reprise their roles, particularly with Burton behind the camera. Perhaps a sequel might never happen, but with Lydia still out there, at least there’s a chance.
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