I understand that a script is currently in the works for Beetlejuice 2, which I probably would have considered good news at one point. Not so much now, when the recent Tim Burton movies I’ve seen just totally bored me. I remember next to nothing about Corpse Bride or Sleepy Hollow, and Alice in Wonderland I remember well enough to know it wasn’t very good. If the sequel really does come to pass, however, maybe they should explain how Beetlejuice died. The only real clue as to his lifetime is that he says he lived through the Black Plague, and that’s part of a speech that includes some obvious fabrications (I’m guessing he didn’t really graduate from Harvard Business School, for instance). This Yahoo Answers thread has people suggesting the plague and hypothermia as the most likely options, based on his appearance. Throughout the movie, a lot of the ghosts retain the appearance they had when their bodies died, so that would make a certain amount of sense. Of course, Beetlejuice is a shape-shifter, but the form he’s in most of the time is the dirty, desecrated one. His name comes from a star in the constellation Orion, but exactly what it means isn’t entirely clear. “Al-Jauza” is the Arabic name for the constellation, and a popular but perhaps not likely derivation of the “Bet” part is that it means “armpit.” Pretty appropriate for a disgusting character, no? I doubt it’s very common as a name, though. Beetlejuice’s former employer was named Juno, also not very common as a name (although I understand it’s gained in popularity since the movie I didn’t see in which Ellen Page plays a character of that name), so maybe they were going for a cosmic feel to the whole thing. Hey, the sandworms lived on Saturn, even though the planet is actually a gas giant rather than a place that can support sandy deserts.
The idea of Beetlejuice being released when someone says his name three times probably comes from somewhere, but I couldn’t say where.
Since I’m on the subject, I’ll also mention the Beetlejuice animated series, which was obviously toned down a bit. Beetlejuice was still gross and kind of nasty, but in a way much more acceptable for children, and he had a soft spot for Lydia. I remember having a dream that explained how the movie and cartoon tied together, and I’m sure it really made no sense, but it seemed to in my subconscious mind. In reality, while some of the characters in the cartoon were the same, it didn’t follow the plot of the film at all. I still watched it, though, because I found it pretty funny. Besides, compared to that Little Shop of Horrors cartoon with Seymour, Audrey, and the sadistic dentist as children, it was a quite faithful adaptation. This complicated the issue of how Beetlejuice died even more, as there were occasionally flashbacks that showed him as a young ghost! What, did he die as a kid? That’s pretty morbid, although no less than Casper, I suppose. Continuity was not the show’s strong point, and the idea of people remaining in the forms in which they died was very much downplayed anyway.
Many of the characters didn’t seem to be spirits of the dead so much as just general Halloween haunts, three of the main recurring characters being a French skeleton, a tap-dancing spider, and the Monster Across the Street. The latter bore a certain resemblance to Gossamer from Looney Tunes.
In the show, Beetlejuice seemed to have greater magic powers than the other inhabitants of the Neitherworld with no explanation as to why, which is more or less the case in the movie as well. So while there’s plenty more to explore about the character, I don’t know about another movie at this point. Just because a script is being written doesn’t necessarily mean anything anyway, however.