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The Oscar-nominated actor, who turned 70 on Sunday, said in a previous interview that it took him toying with the character’s wild appearance to understand where the 1988 project was going.
“I had no idea what he was talking about, but I liked him,” Keaton said in a 2014 interview of Burton. “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.'”
The director was not going to take no for an answer, and Keaton was asked to meet with him again for another chat where the actor sought a better explanation of Burton’s vision.
“When you see [the movie], you understand probably why it was hard for him to explain,” Keaton said of the beloved horror-comedy about ghosts and the obnoxious poltergeist, Beetlejuice.
Still not convinced, Keaton met with Burton a third time which is when something finally clicked. “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.’ And then I thought of an idea of teeth and an idea of a walk.”
Keaton informed Burton over the phone that he had something cooking which he believed could work. “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 I said ‘I want mold because Tim said he lives under rocks,'” Keaton recalled. “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.”
Burton, of course, loved the look of the character Keaton had created. “He got it immediately,” Keaton said of the moment.
The rest is history.
Watch Keaton tell the story below.
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