Guest Star Catherine O'Hara on the Set of Beetlejuice
October 2, 1988
The blockbuster horror comedy Beetlejuice hits video this month, just in time for Halloween. We asked Catherine O'Hara, the SCTV star who plays its sort-of villain, Delia Deetz, to take us behind the scenes.
What was your first reaction to this very strange script?
"When I first read it, I didn't know what the heck it meant. But it was intriguing. I pictured Beetlejuice being played by this lecherous old creep, and it scared me. But then they told me Michael (Keaton) was going to play it, and that changed it completely for me. It turned into what it is, as opposed to what I thought it was. My thinking was probably a little too linear."
What about Delia? Did you base her on anyone real?
"Basically, I just thought of myself on my worst day. Initially I thought she was going to be this one-dimensional witch. I mean, she is the villain and everything, but instead of making her just mean, which is how I first read it, she just became someone that gets in everybody's way because she's so insecurely self-obsessed."
Most people who've seen the movie say the "Day-O" dinner party is their favorite scene.
"That scene's had such incredible response. I remember us all sitting around after the preview, trying to figure out why it works so well. But really, none of us had a clue.
"Filming it was interesting--we made each other laugh a lot. We had to shoot it in sequence because of the lip-synch, and there were a lot of reshoots for close-ups and angles, so we must have done it about a hundred times. The sight of Dick Cavett dancing around with his bum in the air . . ."
This had to be a pretty creepy set. Ever get scared?
"The worst was getting French-kissed by a snake--a fake snake. But the scene was cut, so I guess it didn't work. There was one scene where they wound eight feet of snake body around my legs, and then pulled, so that when they ran it backwards, it looked like it was attacking me. Except the prop guy pulled too hard and I shot six feet into the air. I didn't feel hurt, but I looked around and saw everyone looking at me as if I were dead. So I started to cry, because maybe I was dead."
What sort of video library do you have at home?
"I've got The 10th Victim . . . we did it on SCTV once. It's funny, sometimes I'll be having a discussion about a classic movie, and suddenly realize that I've never seen it and that I'm actually talking about a parody we did. I've also got a couple of Jacques Tati films, and Dinner At Eight and Holiday Inn, and three copies of It's A Wonderful Life. And After Hours and Heartburn, of course.
What's coming up for you?
"I wish I knew. But I am doing a character on Marty Short's Ed Grimley cartoon show. We all are--Joe Flaherty, Andrea Martin, Dave Thomas. And I've got a small part in the new Batman movie (like Beetlejuice, directed by Tim Burton and starring Michael Keaton). It's a death scene. I get to demonstrate how The Joker is going to destroy the world. Jack Nicholson is The Joker. He and Michael will be a great team."
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