Alec Baldwin was prepared for Beetlejuice to ruin his career while they were making the movie. The quirky horror comedy is a Tim Burton classic and it’s hard to imagine someone not having much faith in it while the cameras were rolling. Burton wasn’t yet a household name and Baldwin was just getting started in the big screen world, so he was a bit unsure with the director’s unorthodox directing techniques and bizarre ideas. However, everything seems to have worked out just fine for all parties involved.
When Beetlejuice hit theaters in 1988, the world wasn’t really sure what to make of it. It was a financial success at the box office and it received mostly positive reviews from critics. Now, it has taken on a life of its own and fans have been asking/begging for a sequel, which more than likely won’t happen. There’s even a new Broadway show based on the movie, but Alec Baldwin did not have a crystal ball over 30 years ago. He had this to say.
“When we did Beetlejuice, I had no idea what it was about. I thought my, all of our, careers are going to end with the release of this film… Maybe we’re all going to be dead.”
One of the only specific directions that Alec Baldwin can remember getting from Tim Burton was to have his Adam Maitland character be more “posh,” like actor Robert Cummings. Other than that, it seems like the cast was able to do what they wanted. Burton was pretty relaxed on the Beetlejuice set. Baldwin explains.
“He would sit at a desk and draw the characters… and he would never look up at me. Tim was looking down at a piece of paper and maybe this is the only direction Tim gave me the whole entire movie. He would look up and go, ‘No. Don’t do that.’ And then go back to the paper and draw. But, when you’re around Tim, he was just such a crazy professor. That’s one of the earliest movies I made, and you see everything that’s brought to bear in making movies in a movie like that.”
As for getting comfortable with Beetlejuice, it was Michael Keaton who helped out Alec Baldwin after he figured out what it was going to be like working for Tim Burton. Keaton had starred in a number of projects by 1988 and was only a few years away from working with Burton on Batman when he was with Baldwin, Geena Davis, and Winona Ryder on the set. It was his acting that was a light bulb moment for Baldwin. The actor had this to say about working with Keaton.
“Michael came and knew the secret. Because I would act and then I would have some doubts. I was much more neurotic about what I would do, and I was very young starting out in films. And Keaton just came out and he was like the comedy Annie Oakley. He was so self-assured. He just tore it up.”
Beetlejuice is arguably one of Michael Keaton’s best performances and it turns out a lot of what he did was adlibbed on the spot, which caused a lot of laughter on the set. One of the more memorable scenes in the movie is when he spits into his jacket and says, “Save that guy for later.” That event was improvised and, “I thought I was going to choke, I was laughing so hard off camera,” says Alec Baldwin. Beetlejuice is bigger now that it ever has been, so Baldwin ultimately made a wise decision. You can check out the interview with Baldwin below, thanks to the GQ YouTube channel.