Art imitating life: 'Bros' is the first major Hollywood film to feature all … – The San Diego Union-Tribune

At the beginning of the romantic comedy “Bros,” opening today at theaters nationwide, gay podcast host Bobby Leiber (played by Billy Eichner) explains why he rejected an offer from movie producers to write a script for a gay rom-com that “the whole world will enjoy.”
He makes the point to his listeners that gay sex and gay relationships are different, and besides, he’s never been in love and has always enjoyed his freedom.
But in reality, Eichner embraced “Bros” director Nicholas Stoller’s idea to cowrite and star in just such a film. “Bros” is a major Hollywood movie produced by Judd Apatow featuring an all-LGBTQ principal cast, and its producers expect that the film will appeal to the whole world.

But Eichner, best known for the recently relaunched comedy game show “Billy on the Street,” had to explain a few things to Stoller, whose past directorial credits include “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “The Five-Year Engagement.”
“Nick is straight and married and I’m gay,” Eichner said by phone from San Francisco, where he and actor Luke Macfarlane, who plays Bobby’s romantic counterpart Aaron Shepard in “Bros,” recently conducted press interviews.

“Nick educated me on how to structure a screenplay for a major studio comedy and I educated him on what gay culture is like and what it’s like being a single gay man in 2022,” Eichner said. “Nick was never single during the age of dating apps and texting and sexting and meeting people on social media. I talked him through all of that because it’s a whole culture unto itself. If you haven’t been single in the past 15 or so years, you don’t necessarily know what it’s like to deal with that on a day-to-day basis.”
In “Bros,” Bobby becomes the executive director of a LGBTQ history museum, with a diverse cast of hilariously feuding board members who fight for acknowledgment. Seriously, though, Eichner feels that everyone should have access to LGBTQ history.
“It’s part of life, it’s part of culture,” he said. “As long as there have been humans, there have been LGBTQ people falling in love, falling out of love, having sex with each other — it’s part of the human experience and part of civilization. I think it should be taught as soon you would teach about any other culture.”

About that worldwide acceptance.
There have been big-budget films that depict gay lives, from “Brokeback Mountain” which grossed $178 million worldwide, to last year’s Academy Award-winning Netflix movie “Power of the Dog.” But they have been successful, in part, because the lead roles were played by straight actors familiar to heterosexual audiences.

Hollywood has a long history of assigning gay roles to straight actors.
“We aren’t saying those performances weren’t magnificent,” Eichner said. “We are talking about giving new people opportunities. A lot of times, openly LGBTQ people in Hollywood were punished professionally for coming out and that’s obviously not the right thing to do. Art is a liberating force. We just saw ‘Bros’ as the rare opportunity to flip the script on that and to give LGBTQ actors — actors who were brave enough to come out as LGBTQ at various points in their lives — the opportunity to play their own roles in a high-profile project, which has often not been the case.”
Eichner came out to his parents when he was in college and has been known as gay throughout his career.

Canadian-born Mcfarlane has played straight roles in the past, including playing the heartthrob in numerous Hallmark Channel movies. He is also known for his role as Scotty Wandell in ABC’s “Brothers & Sisters” (2006-2011).
Macfarlane kept his sexual orientation private until he came out in 2008 during an interview with the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail. Last year, he starred in the Hallmark Channel’s gay Christmas movie “Single All the Way,” which is now streaming on Netflix.
Macfarlane said his favorite scene in “Bros” is when his character, Aaron, is left alone in the LGBTQ museum and he gets to see his community’s history.

“He realizes that he is part of a collective and that he comes from somewhere,” Macfarlane said.
Chemistry is a big part of making a rom-com believable and Eichner and Macfarlane had an immediate connection, even though they never met before auditions.

“Luke was the first choice and our only choice,” Eichner said. “That’s the truth. We had a ton of wonderful actors audition for the role but Luke got it the old-fashioned way and by that, I don’t mean the casting couch. I mean just by giving the best audition and being the best person for the part. As good as the script might be on paper, romantic comedies are only successful if there is chemistry between the two lead actors and there is a spark there.”
Eichner said that he was inspired by the movies he grew up with, romantic comedies such as “When Harry Met Sally,” “Sleepless in Seattle” and “Broadcast News.”
“We just thought, what is the funniest, most honest story we can tell about these two characters falling in love and their friends and the people they work with. It fully centers the LGBTQ experience.”

Opens in theaters: Today
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes

Luttrell is a freelance writer.
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