“I wanted it authentic and honest to the gay experience. But I kept saying to Nick Stoller and Judd Apatow, ‘Are straight folks going to get that?’ As we talked about Bros, lead actor and cowriter Billy Eichner explained that they kept saying, “We are two of most straight men alive, and it’s what we get.” “They have been the definition of straight male comedy filmmaking over 20 years.”
It was released by Universal Studios and premiered at Toronto Film Festival. The movie is receiving rave reviews from both LGBTQ+ and straight audiences.
“It’s fascinating for (straight audiences), it gives them a little glimpse behind the curtain at culture that they may have thought they knew from watching wacky gay characters over the years but they don’t understand,” Eichner said.
I had the delight of contacting him and Luke Macfarlane (playing the role of Aaron to Eichner’s Bobby) to talk about the funny and heartwarming comedy that has proven skeptics wrong.
Simon Thompson: These last few weeks have seen a rollercoaster of reactions and reviews from Toronto Film Festival attendees. Is the positive response validation of your knowledge?
Billy Eichner, It’s an incredible relief. It’s thrilling and exciting. Although it sounds cliché, we found Toronto to be an excellent romantic comedy amongst all the heavyweights with Spielberg. It is a entitlement to be able to walk on air, and to hear 1700 people laughing loudly from start to finish was an excellent reception. It was like being at a concert. The response was so true that we had many advanced screenings from all over North America over the next week. People are reacting to its historical nature, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the movie isn’t funny. People will remember how they laughed out loud. You don’t go out and say “Wow, that was historical.” It’s not like you say “Wow, that was funny,” or “That moved me to tears,” and this is what we are seeing. Straight audiences love it because it has everything they love about Judd Apatow’s movies, including all the big laughs and physical comedy. It’s also unlike any other movie they’ve seen. They find it fascinating, and it gives them a glimpse behind the curtain of a culture they think they know.
Luke Macfarlane – I believe validation comes in stages. Confirmation can be found in the form of positive reviews and responses from the audience. But validation also comes from people actually seeing the film. Universal is putting all its efforts into making sure everyone does that. This is the following major validation. I hope we receive it.
Thompson: It is fantastic to see the support Universal is giving Bros. It is not clear what the situation is elsewhere, but it is prominently displayed in LA’s most prominent locations. Bros are being promoted in places that are reserved for blockbuster movies. What does it sense like to see the studio spend its money?
Eichner, It’s exciting and very satisfying. It’s also a long process and somewhat overdue. A significant studio took more than 100 years to produce a movie of this quality, with such a wide release and a high level of marketing and financing. We are grateful for their efforts, but that doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate them. I believe they did a great job. This movie has been shown at theaters across North America for several months. It was screened for both straight audiences and those who were more LGBTQ. Everyone had a positive reaction. People are saying, “Wow! We went to the movie theater so long ago and just laughed with hundreds of others.” It’s rare to have that experience these days. These movies were not available to me as a child, but I remember seeing them more often when I was younger. They are rare nowadays. Universal is a great company. I am grateful.
Macfarlane They’re not correcting the wrong but because they passed the market tests. They are very knowledgeable about what they are doing. They are very skilled at this.
Thompson: You mention straight crowds getting Bros. It was about a month ago that I first saw it. I was the one who laughed the loudest in the entire room. Although they are not directly related to my life, there are many jokes and situations that I have come across.
Eichner, I am shocked and relieved to be able to report that Nick has spent five years perfecting jokes, asking late at night if the rhythm of a line would still work if one word were changed. Now, we’re sitting in the audience, and people laugh loudly, regardless of gender. I was anxious when we were making the movie because I wanted it to be honest and genuine about the gay experience. But, I kept asking Nick and Judd, “Are straight people going get this?” They said, “We are two of most straight men alive, and it’s what we get.” For 20 years, they defined straight male comedy filmmaking as “Hysterical Comedy Filmmaking.” It’s hilarious because it’s truthful. It’s impressive and surprising for people who don’t know much about the culture or how it plays out when two men date in 2022. They encouraged me to be honest, saying that the audience would find it difficult to enjoy the emotional and comedic moments. That is what we are witnessing.
Thompson: Luke, how did you audition for this role? How did you discover that Luke was the right man for this job?
Macfarlane, The primary assignment of the movie is to fall in love. What makes Aaron so funny is his difficulty letting go of masculinity. You never know what jokes will land. In one scene, we are walking through the meadow, and I notice my sunglasses are very masculine. They were funny, and I was excited to wear them. My sense of humor comes from my inability to let go of his masculine ideas for long. Our chemistry was great.
Eichner – Luke and I didn’t know each other before we started filming the movie. It was because our characters and we were discovering each other that it helped. We like each other, we enjoy hanging out, and there is mutual respect. Perhaps there was some intimidation at first, as we didn’t know each other. That may have been what helped to spark that spark in the beginning. Chemistry can be challenging to define. It is also influenced by movie magic.
Macfarlane, I am not competing for his space. His intelligence and wit are unmatched, and Aaron and I don’t compete for any of that space. It’s never a situation where you say, “I can do anything. You can do better.”
Eichner, Thanks for bringing up Annie Get Your Gun.
Thompson: Let’s talk about people’s spaces. Let’s discuss Steve, the character in the scene with the foursome. This is one of those classic scenes, I swear. Both of you know what it’s like to be in the spotlight, but are you both ready for the challenges that will likely await the man who played Steve?
Eichner His name’s Brock Ciarlelli, and he’s so funny. I have already told them we need a Steve spinoff, just named Steve. Everyone will want to know more about Steve. People have context. We have a four-way movie with Steve being the odd man out. Steve is not something anyone wants to deal with. I believe we have all been Steve at some point in our lives. This is why the scene gets so many laughs. This is not just a symbolic way of saying that; I mean four different ways. Steve is a legend, and I am excited for Brock.
Mcfarlane: We had no idea what would happen, and he just discovered all the stuff. It was pretty funny.
Eichner There was lots of improv going.