The Oscar nominee tells PEOPLE he's hoping to reunite with Tim Burton

By Scott Huver
February 01, 2015 03:30 PM
Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice!

Oscar nominee Michael Keaton says he’s ready to get reacquainted with one of his iconic roles. With buzz building for a possible follow-up to Beetlejuice, director Tim Burton’s 1988 horror-comedy in which Keaton memorably starred as a manic, demented spirit alongside costars Winona Ryder, Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin, Keaton tells PEOPLE he’s excited about the prospect of reuniting with Burton, who also directed him in two Batman films. “I hope,” says the Birdman actor. “We don’t know yet.”

Asked what he found exciting about reteaming with Burton at this point in their respective careers, Keaton says simply, “It’s Tim Burton.” The feeling is mutual: Burton recently revealed there’s a script for a Beetlejuice sequel and said he “would love to” work with Keaton again. And Winona Ryder has said she would be on board, too.

At the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on Saturday, where Keaton received the prestigious Modern Master Award for his body of work, he looked back at his career in an onstage Q&A with moderator Leonard Maltin and talked about creating the character of Beetlejuice.

Burton is “unique, and that’s not a word you can apply to many people,” said Keaton. “And also original – certainly not a word you can apply to many people. He is both of those things and also an artist.” Keaton revealed that when explaining the role, Burton ” saw the bigger picture” but “couldn’t articulate the visuals he saw… It wasn’t quite there yet [but] because he’d given me a couple things to think about, I said, ‘Give me a day.'”

Expanding outward from the striped suit Burton had described, Keaton added creepy details like the ghost’s wild hair, moldy face and gnarly teeth. “Because it was also, like, funny but also kind of frightening,” Keaton said. “He’s really dangerous, actually, which is kind of what I think about him.”

By the time he showed up on set, the makeup team embraced his notions and made the concept even wilder. “I was like ‘I’ll see if this works, and if it doesn’t – whatever,'” Keaton recalled.

When Keaton first walked onto the set, the crew, impressed by what they were seeing, began chanting ‘Juice, Juice, Juice’ “And Tim – that’s why he’s so great – went ‘Yes! Okay! You go over there, because I’m going to shoot your head spinning, and then we’re going to go do this thing ‘” Now the energy is built. We’re having fun.”

Winona Ryder also sent in a video tribute to Keaton, as did Keaton’s Birdman director Ajejandro Gonzales Iñarritu, his The Paper co-star Robert Duvall and his Montana neighbor Jeff Bridges. His Multiplicity leading lady Andie MacDowell was on hand in person to introduce the retrospective and his Batman Returns nemesis Danny DeVito presented Keaton with his award.

Unlike his Birdman character, who’s haunted by his onetime superhero role, Keaton tells PEOPLE he’s had a very healthy relationship with his past as the Caped Crusader. “I was glad! ” he says. “Are you kidding? I mean, who gets to play Batman? It was awesome It goes down in film lore, film history. What Tim Burton did really reinvented how those modern day superheroes are done. He started a whole thing, and I was part of his pioneering kind of venture.”