During a recently resurfaced 2014 interview with Charlie Rose, Golden Globe winner Michael Keaton has opened up about Tim Burton’s classic horror comedy Beetlejuice, confirming that he was the one who came up with the classic character’s iconic and memorable look.
In the interview shared by The Hollywood Reporter, Keaton revealed that before signing on to the project, he had previously turned down Burton’s leading role offer twice because he wasn’t able to understand the filmmaker’s vision for the 1988 film.
“I had no idea what he was talking about, but I liked him,” Keaton said. “I said, ‘I wish I could do it. You seem like a really nice guy and I know you’re creative, but I don’t get it…When you see [the movie], you understand probably why it was hard for him to explain.”
However, by their third meeting, an idea seemingly sparked within Keaton, who asked Burton to give him some time to formulate his idea on what he thinks the character should look like. After the meeting, he enlisted the help of the studio’s wardrobe department.
“I said, ‘Give me the night or two days’ and I called the wardrobe department at the studio and said, ‘Send me a bunch of wardrobes from different time periods, randomly. Just pick a rack,’” Keaton shared. “… And then I thought of an idea of teeth and an idea of a walk and I knew it had been there, and I called and said ‘I got an idea, and I don’t know if it’s going to work or not, so let’s just go do this thing.’”
The 70-year-old acclaimed actor also went on to reveal that his entire process of creating the iconic Beetlejuice look wasn’t actually overseen by Burton, who ultimately loved Keaton’s creation after seeing it for the first time.
“Here’s the amazing part about it: He never saw any of it. We discussed it. I said ‘I want hair that looks like I stuck my finger in an electrical socket.’ And to the great Ve Neill in wardrobe, I said ‘I want mold because Tim said he lives under rocks.’ So I showed up for work and I walked on the stage and said, ‘This is either going to be way off the mark, or he’s going to — I don’t know what he’s going to do. He got it immediately.”
Beetlejuice starred Keaton, Winona Ryder, Catherin O’Hara, Jeffrey Jones, Alec Baldwin, and Geena Davis. The film centered around a deceased married couple who called on the services of the obnoxious and mischievous poltergeist from the Netherworld to scare away the new residents of their former home. Since its debut, it earned both critical and commercial success with a box office gross of over $73 million. Due to its success and pop culture influence, it went on to spawned off an animated series, video games, and a stage musical.