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Fun Film Facts: Joker

Fun Film Facts: Joker

By George Taylor Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020

How much do you know about your favorite DC movies? In this edition of Fun Film Facts, we stop clowning around and get the goods on Joker.

Although Joker marks the first time that filmmaker Todd Phillips (who directed, co-wrote and produced the film) has ever worked with Joaquin Phoenix, Phillips and co-writer Scott Silver wrote the role of Arthur Fleck with the award-winning actor in mind. (Fun fact: For his performance in this movie, Phoenix took home another 27 awards, including an Oscar, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, BAFTA, and numerous critics’ awards!)

And, though he has long admired the actor’s work, Joker marks the first time that Phoenix has worked with the legendary (and multiple award-winning) Robert De Niro.

Now, if you’re reading this, you undoubtedly know that any movie (or graphic novel, TV series, etc.) about the Joker would be set in the iconic Gotham City, but…

Did You Know?

  • In the film, the main section of the fictional Gotham Square was filmed at the very real intersection of Newark, New Jersey’s Broad and Market Streets. This intersection is known as the Times Square of Newark—its architecture and atmosphere actually resemble New York’s Times Square of nearly forty years ago.
     
  • Although Joker is set circa 1981, Phillips actually preferred to utilize cars from the 1970s, which he felt more accurately reflected his gritty vision for the film. In that spirit, for a scene where Arthur rides a city transit bus, a vehicle that dates from the `70s was secured from an automotive museum in South Jersey.
     
  • In all, the Joker production employed 4,000 extras throughout filming. The biggest extras day, a crowd scene taking place outside Wayne Hall with 455 background players, was shot in Jersey City. Phillips and his crew captured the scene on John F. Kennedy Boulevard, known as Jersey City’s Fifth Avenue.

  • Subway scenes for Joker were filmed on the New York City subway lines in both Brooklyn and the Bronx. The unit worked in five different stations, some of which were shuttered and closed to the public, as well as on functioning subway lines in stations that were open to the public. In those scenes, the cameras rolled while trains roared into the station and subway riders disembarked and boarded subway cars.
     
  • The period subway cars, circa 1970-80, that were used for filming were obtained from the New York City transit museum and were operated by certified Metropolitan Transport Authority (MTA) personnel.
     
  • Production designer Mark Friedberg designed a Gotham City transit map that is visible at the various subway stations that appear in the movie.
     
  • The interiors of Wayne Hall were filmed in Brooklyn, inside the fabled Kings Theater, the legendary 3,676-seat movie palace that opened in 1929 and closed in 1977. Renovated at the cost of $93 million, the theater re-opened in 2015 as a performing arts venue.

  • Arthur’s workplace where he gets assignments as a clown—Ha-Ha’s Talent Agency—was filmed on location at Cleantex, a Harlem carpet company. His stand-up comedy gig was filmed at New York’s Dangerfield’s, the oldest functioning comedy club in New York, named for Rodney Dangerfield, a stand-up comic known for his self-deprecating humor and the catchphrase, “I don’t get no respect.”
     
  • To play Arthur, Phoenix lost 52 pounds by eating not much more than an apple a day. (Definitely don’t try this at home, kiddos!)
     
  • In Joker, Arthur keeps a personal journal filled with drawings and prose, which was designed and created by the prop department. However, Phoenix wrote the entries himself in his own handwriting, which was then scanned so it could be recreated and artfully placed around the vivid images created by two production artists.
     
  • Arthur’s appearance as a professional clown and some of his movements were directly inspired by Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp. Two-time Academy Award winning costume designer Mark Bridges topped off the outfit with a tiny derby to invoke the classic Chaplin image.

  • Arthur’s magic wand, also part of his clown act, was created by the prop department using a Wobble Wand. A staple of magic shows, the wand appears to be a stable, solid wand with metal tips. When handed to a spectator, however, the wand droops and wobbles in their hand. The spray of flowers Arthur produces from inside the wand were made of feather flowers and a strong, rare earth magnet.
     
  • The music in Joker is key in creating the atmosphere director Phillips wanted in the film. He worked with Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, who began contributing music to the film upon her first read of the script. (Fun fact: Gudnadottir, who is based in Berlin, received numerous accolades for her work on Joker, including winning the Oscar, BAFTA, Golden Globe and Venice Film Festival awards!)


Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz and Frances Conroy, is available for streaming on HBO Max. Not yet a subscriber? Kick things off with a free seven-day trial.