Rom-coms have forever been a movie night staple, and “Bros” is here to shake up the traditional swoony, heartfelt genre with a queer twist.
Universal Pictures’ newest film, which releases September 30, has made history as the first gay romantic comedy to premiere from a Hollywood studio. Co-written and executive produced by comedic genius and actor Billy Eichner, who stars as one of the two leads alongside “Killjoys” star Luke Macfarlane, “Bros” introduces an all-LGBTQ+ cast that delivers a humorous, genuine portrayal of gay culture.
“Bros” follows Eichner and Macfarlane as Bobby and Aaron, two men with commitment issues who dare to let themselves love each other. The film encompasses the typical rom-com plot characteristics: the meet, dates, misunderstandings, introductions to the family — all from a queer standpoint that Eichner says is long overdue in the industry.
“It’s really exciting. It’s been a long time coming,” Eichner says during an interview in Phoenix. “Ultimately, we just wanted to make it as hilarious as possible. We wanted to make a movie that really makes people laugh out loud, that makes them feel good, that’s sexy and a little shocking. That was our goal.”
With the release of so many dark, gritty action and superhero movies, Eichner says that comedies are almost exclusive to watching from the couch at home, whether they depict straight people or the LGBTQ+ community.
As a result, he wanted to give moviegoers a film that brings them together with friends to enjoy in theaters.
“There’s something really fun and exciting about going to a movie theater and laughing with your friends or going with your girlfriend, your boyfriend, or even going by yourself and just having that type of really fun, joyful experience,” he says. “‘Bros’ is a movie that is uplifting and makes you feel good about life. It’s hopeful, and I think we really need more of that right now.”
Although its overall purpose was to make audiences laugh, the team knew from the beginning that one of the key objectives of the film was to bring the LGBTQ+ community into the limelight.
Hollywood is often imbalanced as to whom it gives its opportunities to, on many occasions casting straight actors as gay characters. Eichner and the crew wanted to help balance this, so they gathered a principal cast entirely consisting of LGBTQ+ members — making “Bros” the first studio film to do so.
“People didn’t know Seth Rogen before ‘Knocked Up.’ They didn’t really know Melissa McCarthy before ‘Bridesmaids,’” Eichner says. “So, we wanted to do that, too, but with LGBTQ actors and really, really funny LGBTQ people who have not gotten the opportunity to be in a movie like this.
“To all be on set together was so delightful. We all got along. We all were really grateful that we were getting this opportunity, because it’s so rare, and we truly did have a great time.”
Eichner, whose resume includes his show “Billy on the Street,” 2019’s “The Lion King,” and “Difficult People,” is the first openly gay man to co-write and star in his own film backed by a major studio.
While it’s not entirely autobiographical, “Bros” was influenced by much of Eichner’s own life.
He says his personal experiences in the era of dating apps, texting and social media and the ensuing negative behaviors were a major source of inspiration for some of the scenes.
“I think straight people can relate to that. LGBTQ folks can relate to that. Any single person can relate to that,” Eichner says.
There are also moments where he drew from his journey as a gay person trying to build a career in Hollywood, a powerful move that he believes adds to its honesty and ability to resonate with others.
Right away, Eichner knew that he wanted the film to maintain an authentic, modern depiction of gay culture. For those outside the LGBTQ+ community, he says “Bros” presents a window for them to encounter gays in a humorous and sincere manner that captures their “complex,” “multi-dimensional” selves.
“I want straight people to experience gay men not just as characters who are wacky and can make you laugh,” he says. “We’re not just the gay best friend in this movie — we’re at the center of the story. LGBTQ characters are all over the story.”
The film spotlights and satirizes many aspects of LGBTQ+ culture, from Grindr hookups to intra-queer politics, but particularly homes in on the impact that stereotypical masculinity has on gay men’s vulnerability and confidence.
Macfarlane, who has played the romantic lead in a number of Hallmark movies, resonates with some of his character’s struggles.
“I think Aaron’s journey in this movie is about how his masculinity prevents him from love and his notions of masculinity,” he says. “Whether that’s having this perfect body, whether that’s acting tough — I think that is ruining a lot of men, and I relate to that.”
Eichner’s role as Bobby, while not as conventionally masculine, also grapples with attempts to be tough and invulnerable.
“I think it shows that for both of these characters, they are sort of using a certain type of armor that they put between themselves and the world,” he says.
“You can’t be in love with someone and really have a satisfying relationship unless you let that guard down. You have to reveal yourself, you have to be vulnerable, and so in different ways, that’s what these characters are forcing each other to do — they have to, in order to be together.”