‘Joker’ returns to menace Essex County again

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ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — NO LAUGHING MATTER — Less than five years after actor Joaquin Phoenix roamed the streets of downtown Newark as the maniacal Clown Prince of Crime, Hollywood returned to the Garden State to film pivotal scenes for ‘Joker: Folie à Deux’ in Belleville.

The upcoming sequel to the original, critically acclaimed 2019 blockbuster is again helmed by Director Todd Phillips, who has recruited pop star-turned-thespian Lady Gaga to portray Joker’s deranged lady love Harley Quinn in what insiders are referring to as a madcap musical adventure.

A small army comprised of camera crews, set designers and lighting technicians descended upon the corner of Belleville and Franklin avenues to transform the historic yet eerily abandoned Essex County Isolation Hospital — currently known as Soho Hospital — into the fictional DC Comics-inspired Arkham Asylum.

Local police are providing set security to make sure that diehard Batman fans and the just-plain-curious keep a safe distance from this creepy corner of Gotham City.

Delighted Belleville Mayor Michael Melham released an official statement last week concerning the not-so-secret project: ‘It’s true that there is a major motion picture filming in Belleville.

While I’m not at liberty to confirm the exact movie, location or the two A-list celebrities that will be here, I can certainly confirm it’s a big deal for Belleville.’