NEW YORK (AP) – Throngs of protesters gathered at the courthouse steps, chanting for freedom for their embattled hero. Police kept watch as passions flared and voices roared. Squad cars and television trucks encircled the commotion.
It’s a scene New York City authorities have been bracing for as prosecutors consider an indictment against former President Donald Trump, who has invited followers to rally on his behalf. But on Saturday, it was just a movie shoot – for the Joker sequel to be precise.
The roars faded and the crowds dispersed – on command – when the director yelled, “Cut!”
The New York City shoot for the upcoming Joker sequel had been planned for months; but in recent days, production crews wrestled with the possibility that filming could be disrupted by real-life protests over the Trump case – none have so far materialised.
In the end, film workers forged ahead, said Leo Maniscalchi, a production assistant, who was taking a break at a nearby coffee house.
“They needed to do what they needed to get this done,” he said.
In the film, the Joker, played by Joaquin Phoenix, inspires protests against Gotham’s elites.
In real life, Trump has inspired protests, too. In recent weeks, the former president has called on his supporters to protest what he said was an impending indictment.
“They can’t stop production for anything, really,” Maniscalchi said. “The scene didn’t call for rain, but we’re still out here.”
For the past week, crowds – mostly news media – have been staking out another courthouse up the street from filming. Earlier in the week, a band of young Republicans staged a protest but its numbers were dwarfed by a crush of journalists. A rumoured caravan of Trump adherents also did not take place, neither did a march dozens of blocks from the Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue to the Manhattan courthouse in the lower city.
When we last saw the Joker, he was running down the halls of a mental asylum with Frank Sinatra singing That’s Life.
In the sequel, called Joker: Folie à Deux, Lady Gaga joins the cast as Harley Quinn, his love interest. Fittingly, the new movie, expected to be released late next year, is being billed as a musical.
Jaymie Robinson, a 24-year-old extra from Newark, New Jersey, recounted how she heard one bystander who seemed confused about whether she was part of a real protest. The cameras and phony police cars – and signs saying “Free Joker” – should have been a dead giveaway, she said.
Laurie Allard, who was visiting from Montreal, Canada, came upon the outdoor movie set while touring downtown Manhattan and initially didn’t know it was related to filming.
She was vaguely familiar with the Trump case – and knew it was happening nearby. So when she saw the throngs, she was a bit startled.