'Joker' Set Photo Teases a Return to Arkham Asylum — And Another Villain

It wouldn’t a Batman movie without a trip to Arkham Asylum, and the latest photo from the set of [Joker] suggest the upcoming Joaquin Phoenix vehicle won’t be any different.

The stand-alone Joker movie has officially wrapped principal photography, and director Todd Phillips commemorated the occasion on Instagram with a teaser for what could possibly be the infamous Arkham Asylum.

On Monday, Phillips shared a candid behind the scenes photo of himself on the New York set of Joker, his stand-alone origin movie starring Joaquim Phoenix as the infamous Batman villain.

“That’s a wrap on production,” Phillips wrote, “Thanks to the greatest crew NYC has to offer. It was a fun shoot— but we’re not there yet. #editingroom”

Curiously, it’s what’s behind Phillips in the photograph that’s intriguing. Leaning against a decrepit, marble tiled wall with faded signage that vaguely reads “NO UNSURPRISED PATIENTS ALLOWED,” the photo is a big hint that the movie will feature Arkham Asylum, the troubled psychiatric hospital that houses Gotham City’s worst criminals, and by that, we mean supervillains.

Introduced well into Batman’s comic book history, in Batman #258 in 1974, Arkham Asylum (first called “Arkham Hospital”) was a concept created by Dennis O’Neil and Irv Novick, and it functions as an institution where Gotham City “keeps” its villains until they inevitably break out again.

The setting has become a popular piece of Batman iconography, appearing in countless TV shows, movies, and video games. The asylum itself was the setting for Grant Morrison/Dave McKean’s popular 1989 one-shot comic Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, in which Batman endured a psychologically surreal journey surrounded by his worst enemies. The comic became the inspiration for the popular Batman: Arkham video game franchise, which began with Batman: Arkham Asylum in 2009.

On film and TV, Arkham Asylum has been everywhere, appearing in the Emmy-winning Batman: The Animated Series, Batman & Robin (1997) and Batman Begins (2005), the short-lived Birds of Prey, and the FOX series Gotham. It was most recently in The CW’s “Elseworlds,” a multi-part crossover episode that featured characters from Arrow, The Flash, and Supergirl briefly teaming up with Bruce Wayne’s cousin Kate Kane, also known as Batwoman.

You can potentially add Joker to the list of Arkham Asylum appearances outside comic books. Separate from the DC cinematic universe, Phillips’ Joker is a stand-alone origin movie starring Joaquim Phoenix, who previously expressed interest in portraying a comic book superhero on film in an experimental way. But even if it’s stand-alone, Arkham Asylum is loaded with Gotham City’s worst personalities.

So who knows who else will show up to keep the Joker company, but our money’s on Harley Quinn. She did get her start as an Arkham Asylum psychiatrist, after all.

Joker will be released on October 5, 2019.


Related video: Watch the trailer for Batman: Return to Arkham, a rerelease of the first two games in the Batman: Arkham video game series for Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Media via DC Comics