Movies

Bronx 'step street' becomes New York hotspot thanks to Joker movie

NEW YORK: Like most tourists, Mr Patricio Osuna had a list of must-sees on his trip to New York City: The Statue of Liberty, Times Square and, surprisingly, a steep flight of steps in an out-of-the-way neighbourhood of the Bronx that has become a cult movie landmark.

This fall, Mr Osuna and a stream of fellow visitors have flocked to the stairway, known as a "step street", to see the real-life backdrop to a memorable scene in Joker, the hit movie that tells the backstory of Batman's deranged foe, the Joker.

The scene captures the moment that the loner Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) transforms into the Joker as he dances down the steps to Gary Glitter's anthem Rock & Roll Part 2, his hair dyed green and his face painted like a clown.

"I'm visiting New York for the first time and I said that I have to come visit the stairs," said Mr Osuna, a 46-year-old bus company owner from Tijuana, Mexico.

Until recently, not many tourists ventured into the Bronx, which has long sought to shake an unfair image as a crime-ridden backwater. The borough's biggest draws are the Bronx Zoo, the New York Botanical Garden and the New York Yankees.

But since the release of Joker earlier this month, many New Yorkers and out-of-towners travelled there to gawk, take selfies and, in the spirit of the Joker's choreography, ham it up.

While the borough has struggled with its reputation as a dangerous place, it is perhaps ironic that a threatening figure like the Joker may have helped burnish its image.

"It's good for us. You know, publicity," said Mr Jose Cruz, a longtime resident who climbs the 131 steps at West 167th Street daily. "People don't have to be scared of the Bronx no more, the way they used to." - REUTERS

TOURISM & TRAVEL