Is the Joker running loose in Belleville?
Film crew activity at the old Essex County Isolation Hospital has created buzz on social media that the clown prince of crime and Harley Quinn are in town to film the sequel “Joker: Folie à Deux.”
As in the original 2019 film “Joker,” New Jersey has been reported to be the location for scenes in the sequel. But where? That’s the burning question.
A visitor to the Belleville site said he was told the filming would be “Batman related,” but there has been no official confirmation that the Joker 2 movie was being filmed there.
The New Jersey Motion Picture and TV Commission directed all questions to Warner Bros., which is the parent company of the DC universe. Warner Bros. has not responded to a request for comment.
The new Arkham!
Belleville Mayor Michael Melham posted on Friday a photo of “Arkham State Hospital” while confirming that a movie is being made in the town.
“Yes! It’s true there is a MAJOR motion picture filming in Belleville,” the mayor wrote. “While I’m not at liberty to confirm the exact movie, location or the TWO A-LIST celebrities that will be here, lol, I can certainly confirm it’s a big deal for Belleville.”
Locals agree the unoccupied hospital on top of a hill off Franklin Avenue in Belleville is the perfect location for the notorious Arkham of DC Comics fame.
One Facebook poster who lives nearby wrote: “This place always creeped me out any way, great choice.”
The hospital, which has its own storied history, was decked out this week with barbed wire surrounding the entrance, spotlights and massive tents behind the building likely for the film crew.
The sequel, being directed again by Todd Phillips, will star Joaquin Phoenix reprising his Oscar-winning role and music superstar Lady Gaga as the Joker’s sidekick Harley Quinn. The film is slated to be released on Oct. 4 2024.
There were people on social media claiming they spotted the two stars at the location.
The hospital’s history
Built in 1932, the Essex County Isolation Hospital in the Soho section of Belleville harkens back to an era when infectious diseases like tuberculosis, polio and typhoid ran rampant through North Jersey.
“It’s an incredible piece of architecture, a magical place,” Michael Perrone, the president of the Belleville Historical Society, told The Record in 2020. “That building made a very big statement. It was a monument to the public health system.”
The hospital sits high on a hill by design as it was meant to keep those infected away from the general public. In a bit of irony, the coronavirus halted plans for the hospital’s future. The building was being converted into 245 apartment units before the pandemic hit and halted construction.
“It was like a haunted castle on top of the hill,” Perrone said. “There were stories that went around of haunted rooms, catacombs and hallways.”
No stranger to Hollywood
This would not be the Belleville hospital’s first foray on the big screen.
It was the setting for the Oscar-winning “A Beautiful Mind” in 2001. In that film, Russell Crowe plays Princeton mathematician John Forbes Nash. Crowe was nominated for an Oscar and Jennifer Connelly won best actress in a supporting role playing Alicia Nash.
Meanwhile in Gotham
Across the river in Manhattan on Saturday, Lady Gaga was seen at a courthouse dressed as Harley Quinn while filming for the movie “Juliet” – rumored to be a working title for the Joker sequel, according to the Associated Press.