Welcome to Script to Pieces, a recurring feature at Wicked Horror where we look at the best, most interesting and at times most unbelievable horror movies that never happened. Sometimes these will be productions that never came together at all, other times, they will be original incarnations that were completely different from what we wound up with. Each should be fascinating in its own way, because the stories of movies that never see the light of day can sometimes be even more interesting than the stories of those that do. In this installment, we’ll be taking a look at Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian.
Fans cannot get enough of the idea of a sequel to Beetlejuice, even though everyone is much older now and it’s impossible to imagine Stranger Things-era Winona Ryder getting back into the role of Lydia. Within the past several years it has looked as though a sequel could head into production at virtually any point in time. Tim Burton seemed ready to do it immediately following Dark Shadows and writer Seth Grahame-Smith turned in a script.
But nothing happened. Michael Keaton is still championing the project, but it seems to have lost all steam. While the cast all seemed game for it when asked over the past few years, there’s been no word as of late on whether it will even move forward at all.
Talk of a Beetlejuice sequel goes back a long time, though. It dates back at least to 1990, when Burton was asked to make a sequel following his success with Batman. The script he ordered, however, bore the puzzling title Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian. It’s still not clear whether or not the script was ordered as a joke or if Burton commissioned it because he was sure no one at the studio would want to make it, but they apparently loved the idea and for a while the film was on the fast track.
According to multiple sources, however, Burton was invested in the idea. He wanted to combine the setting of a classic, cheesy ‘60s beach movie with the gothic German Expressionist flair he’s known for. It was a juxtaposition of two things that shouldn’t ever exist together that apparently enticed Burton’s imagination.
As ridiculous as this sounds, it’s worth pointing out that this is basically the same exact thing that he did with Edward Scissorhands by combining German Expressionism with picturesque Norman Rockwell suburbia. Keaton and Ryder both agreed to do the film on the condition that Burton direct.
The plot would have seen the Deets family moving to Hawaii where the patriarch planned to open a resort. Obviously, the chaotic Betelgeuse would follow closely behind, accidentally awakening an angry native spirit and, most importantly, the ghost with the most would also win the big third-act surf contest.
Ultimately, the movie didn’t pick up steam fast enough. Warner Bros. also wanted a sequel to their smash hit Batman, so both Burton and Keaton went to make that picture instead. Burton also took with him Daniel Waters, the Heathers screenwriter who he had commissioned for a rewrite of Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian in early 1991.
Even after Batman Returns the project lingered on. Saturday Night Live writer Pamela Norris was approached to rewrite the script in 1993 and in 1996 Warner Bros. approached Kevin Smith with the project, but he turned it down in favor of Superman Lives.
By 1997, however, screenwriter Jonathan Gems sounded certain that the project would never get made, saying “You really couldn’t do it now anyway. Winona is too old for the role, and the only way they could make it would be to totally recast it.”
After that, there were no further news or rumors until the late 2000s, when word of a possible Beetlejuice sequel began picking up steam. Seth Grahame-Smith turned in a script in 2011, but there’s no word on what the story entailed. It’s highly unlikely that he gave Warner Bros. an updated version of Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian, but I guess we’ll never know.
At this point in time it seems highly unlikely that we’ll ever see a sequel. It’s amazing that Goes Hawaiian had ever even been considered, let alone for so many years. But if it had happened, it would have had the impressive distinction of being a franchise that literally jumped the shark in only its second entry.
Instead, all we have is the original film and a follow-up animated series, in which I’m honestly surprised we never saw Betelgeuse go Hawaiian.