The new movie Bros could prove to be a very important movie in LGBTQ+ culture this year. This gay romantic comedy is directed by Nicholas Stoller, who co-wrote the script with Billy Eichner. Stoller and Eichner joined Judd Apatow to all produce the Universal Pictures film.
Many of the cast members of Bros are part of the LGBTQ+ community such as Bowen Yang, Ts Madison and Guy Branum. There are appearances throughout the film by other out-and-proud performers such as Amanda Bearse, Dot-Marie Jones, Miss Lawrence, Eve Lindley and Harvey Fierstein.
Billy Eichner plays Bobby Lieber, who meets a lawyer named Aaron, played by Luke Macfarlane, through a dating app. The two New York-based characters struggle through relationship issues that many audience members will identify with.
Eichner rose to fame on Funny or Die's Billy on the Street before becoming a regular on Parks and Recreation. He starred in the Hulu series Difficult People and has had recurring roles on American Horror Story for two seasons.
In 2019, he voiced the part of Timon for Disney's live-action remake of The Lion King and is currently developing a film biography of his fellow Northwestern University alum Paul Lynde called Man in the Box.
Macfarlane is a Canadian-American actor known for playing Scott Wandell on ABC's Brothers & Sisters. He came out as gay in 2008.
The duo sat down to talk about Bros at The Peninsula Chicago the day after a special screening and a night out on the town in Lake View.
Windy City Times: How was Sidetrack last night? Did you have the "shit rocket" cocktail mentioned in your movie Bros?
Luke Macfarlane: No, but we did try some shots of Malort.
WCT: Billy, what are you doing to him?
Billy Eichner: Someone insisted that he [have] one…
LM: We were around very young people.
BE: I didn't think it was that bad, but maybe I am just an alcoholic. [Everyone laughs]
WCT: Do people think you are going to yell at them like those Billy in the Street segments?
BE: Yes, sometimes that happens. I ask them, "Do you think Sacha Baron Cohen is actually Borat?" It is a characte,r obviously, and if I acted like Billy on the Street all the time then I probably wouldn't be alive anymore.
WCT: Did you feel a lot of pressure on your shoulders with a lot riding on this movie?
BE: Yes; it is a historic movie and the first of its kind in many ways. I made it with Judd Apatow and Nicholas Stoller who have made some of the best comedies in the last 20 years such as Bridesmaids, Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. They really know how to make great comedy, so I relied on them a lot.
We just focused on making the funniest, most honest movie we could. We wanted to make a movie that people will laugh out loud from beginning to end.
I don't think that is an experience people often get in the movie theater anymore. I think we have forgotten how much fun it is to go to a movie theater and laugh for a few hours to escape the world. That was our goal.
WCT: What would you recommend to the others within our community who want to make their big-budget movie?
BE: I would tell them it is challenging. It is remarkable that it has taken this long for Hollywood to make a gay rom-com movie at a major studio at this level of wide release, marketing and distribution.
I hope everyone who is straight and LGBTQ+ rallies around Bros and tells people they like it so that Hollywood has the courage to make movies about the other parts of the community.
LM: The movie Tangerine certainly wasn't a studio movie.
WCT: They made that movie with an iPhone.
WCT: You guys could have done that, but we will take the big budget!
LM: Well, we wouldn't be doing press week right now if we only had a small budget.
WCT: How similar are you both to your characters in the movie?
LM: Aaron has thought about some of the things that I think about such as questioning masculinity, which is really important to him, also identity and trying to be strong and tough. I went through that. It is interesting watching the movie to see Aaron be a little more shut off than me, but it was a version of myself when I was a bit younger. I was lucky enough to be around people who encouraged me to be myself.
In order for me to be an artist, I had to remove that stuff. We both share a healthy sense of wanting to appear tough to the world around us.
BE: Bobby Lieber is not identical to me, but I obviously pull from things from my life. Bobby is very outspoken and likes to be clever. He loves a pop-culture zinger but, in a way, that is his defense mechanism against the world and his armor with his body and the masculine energy he is trying to project into the world.
Bobby is comedic, but it is a similar mechanism to me. We started off with the idea of what would happen if two guys who are out and sexually active put love and intimacy at arm's length. If they fall in love how do they deal with that and what does that relationship look like?
Those are questions and the original premise that we started with.
WCT: The serious parts of Bros surprised me because I thought it would be all comedy. How was it filming the drama?
BE: It required a lot of vulnerability. For both of us, these roles made us reveal ourselves in every way, physically and emotionally.
LM: We revealed skin!
BE: It shows a lot of us. [Laughs] I think as an actor because I was Billy on the Street for so long and basically a cartoon, it was scary for me to reveal myself, but I was also excited to do that because every actor wants to play a multidimensional role. So many of the gay roles that we see or get are one-dimensional or two-dimensional cartoons. They are wacky characters on sitcoms, not complicated people in addition to being funny and being able to deliver just a one-liner.
I was really excited to do those scenes, but it was a little scary.
LM: It was also sexy, which we don't get to see sometimes with a lot of gay men. We are part of the joke and don't get the sensitive storylines.
BE: We are very sensitive people!
WCT: My friends just want to know if it is a good gay movie that will show on big screens everywhere. They are tired of the art-house films that our community often gets.
LM: Those films are super-important and I remember them, but it is nice to not have to go to the back room of the video store to pick them up. People can now go out to the multiplex and see our films as well!
BE: What is exciting about Bros is that it is not just playing in art houses in New York, LA and Chicago only. It will be played in over 3,000 multiplexes all over America. It is an R-rated, Judd Apatow, gay romantic comedy that will be shown all over the world. That is what is important because there are gay people in small towns who want to go out to the cinema to see themselves reflected as much as there are gays in the big cities.
LM: Are they letting us open Bros in Florida?
BE: I believe it will be opening in Florida and other Third World countries…
WCT: Whose idea was it to put all of the LGBTQ+ characters in a boardroom and have them debate topics? That was brilliant!
BE: It was me. We were thinking about what would be a funny place for my character to work and I was doing some research about it. I was surprised to see there really are no LGBTQ+ history museums for us, at least not in New York. We literally have a museum about trains and railroads, but there is not a big museum about LGBTQ+ history.
There was something to be explored that would allow us to represent different parts of the LGBTQ+ community. We could poke fun at ourselves while celebrating our history, which is something we wanted to do.
WCT: What are you both working on next?
BE: I am working on a Paul Lynde movie and also writing a movie with the gay writer icon Paul Rudnick called Ex-Husbands. It is like a big gay War of the Roses and a divorce movie.
LM: I have television series coming out in November on Apple+ where I play a straight character as the husband of Rose Byrne. It is called Platonic.
BE: Platonic was made by Nick Stoller, who made Bros.
WCT: Will there be a Bros 2: Electric Boogaloo?
BE: If there is one it will definitely be an Electric Boogaloo, I promise you! Let's have everyone go see the first Bros and then we will see.
Bros screens as part of Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival at Landmark's Century Centre Cinema in Theater 4 on Monday, Sept. 26, at 7 p.m. CT. The movie opens everywhere on Friday, Sept. 30.