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    Billy Eichner and Luke Macfarlane Talk About Being Bros

    By Gary M. Kramer–

    The gay romcom Bros, about gay history museum executive Bobby Leiber (co-writer Billy Eichner) meeting probate lawyer Aaron Shepard (Luke Macfarlane), is a queer throwback to films like When Harry Met Sally. This very funny comedy features two characters who keep love at arms’ length. They could be perfect together if they just got out of their own way.

    Eichner and Macfarlane are two of the many out gay actors in the queer-inclusive Bros. It is the first gay romcom from a major studio. The guys met with me for the San Francisco Bay Times to talk about Bros.

    Gary M. Kramer: It was great to see such a large and diverse queer cast. What can you say about leaning into or away from queer and straight stereotypes?

    Billy Eichner: I made the movie with Judd Apatow and Nick Stoller, two very accomplished straight men. They have made some of the funniest movies of all time—Bridesmaids, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Superbad, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. They are straight; I am gay. We collaborated on this together, and every step of the way we said, “Let’s make it as funny as possible and let’s make it as honest as possible.” I don’t know much, but I know the experience of what it means to be an openly gay man my whole life and having many LGBTQ friends and navigating gay culture.

    Sometimes there is truth in stereotypes. But the point is to show a stereotype and then be able to reveal that it is not a stereotype. That the person is so much more than the cartoon character that gay people have often been asked to play. A lot of straight audiences, who have not been exposed to independent queer cinema and the things they have access to, think they understand what it is like to be a gay man and gay culture because they have seen wacky sitcom characters, or sidekicks, but we are so much more than that.

    That doesn’t mean we can’t be funny. A lot of us are funny, and we pride ourselves on being quick with a quip, but the point of Bros was to show both these men as much more complicated and emotionally messy than they initially seem.

    Luke Macfarlane: It’s a particularly hard sort of thing to put on top of the movie. No one watched When Harry Met Sally and said, “That isn’t straight representation.” We do have the queer audience that comes at us and says, “We’re finally going to see my life. Is it going to be accurate to my specific life?” And it’s not going to be accurate to the entire queer experience.

    But it is a challenge. We’re finally here. We’re finally in the multiplex. We’re opening in 3000 theaters, and everyone wants to see themselves because it’s the first time. But you can’t please all the people all the time, as Bob Marley says. [Laughs]

    Billy Eichner: Thank you for bringing up Bob Marley.

    Luke Macfarlane: Queer ally.

    Billy Eichner: Apparently a bisexual. If I read the history … .

    Luke Macfarlane: Is that true?

    Billy Eichner: Maybe I’m making that up. Now I’m being very Bobby Leiber.

    Gary M. Kramer: I appreciated the film’s discussions about confidence and vulnerability. What observations do you have about being self-reliant but also able to expose yourself to others as Bobby and Aaron do?

    Billy Eichner: I think a lot of the self-reliance and self-possession at the beginning of the film are admirable qualities to have, but taken to the extreme, you’re shutting yourself off from having vulnerable, intimate relationships with people. 

    Gary M. Kramer: Why do we do that? Is that just insecurity?

    Billy Eichner: Being vulnerable, you’re opening yourself up to potential hurt and criticism as much as you’re opening yourself up to potential love and comfort.

    Gary M. Kramer: But your film shows that, when you don’t do that, you can still feel hurt and pain.

    Luke Macfarlane: I actually think that’s a universal thing. Yes, we have the Velvet Rage and the Best Boy syndrome, but I think that many of the people you look at in the world who have been highly successful have done it because they thought they did it all by themselves, and that is the only thing they can focus on, which is their own private life. I don’t know if that is specifically singular to the gay community.

    Gary M. Kramer: Given that you are playing these characters, what influences did you have?

    Billy Eicher: I mostly did base it on my own life. I did grow up in a time when there were really great romantic comedies being released in movie theaters, which we don’t get anymore. They were always about straight people and never included any LGBTQ folks, barely included any marginalized group. But I did love When Harry Met Sally and Annie Hall, and Moonstruck and Broadcast News, which is my favorite movie of all time, and Tootsie. We barely get movies like those about straight people anymore and we never get them about gay people.

    They are not avant garde or subversive indie films with a sad ending. There’s a place for that. I love avant garde movies, and independent queer cinema. I think Bros is able to exist because of the decades of indie queer romcoms that we got, but I was thinking about Nora Ephron, James L. Brooks, and Woody Allen movies I grew up with but never saw myself in. I love how funny and witty the characters are, Bros has its more subversive moments. But I wanted to do something that ended on an uplifting note, that gave people hope.

    So much of what gets released in movie theaters now is dark and gritty. We get a lot of action movies, and superhero movies, and horror movies, and it seems like comedies are something people watch at home alone, but for me, it’s much more satisfying to watch with hundreds of people in a theater and laugh out loud. That was my guiding inspiration. Making a movie like the ones I grew up with, but with a gay couple with LGBTQ characters and LGBTQ actors.

    Luke Macfarlane: I wept at Brokeback Mountain, and Power of the Dog, and Philadelphia. Those are all incredibly moving pieces of queer cinema, but it never occurred to me that we could have a romantic comedy. Because I really have not seen that. Even in the indie space, a movie I really connected with was Beach Rats. I love that movie. But that movie was not in the multiplex.   

    © 2022 Gary M. Kramer

    Gary M. Kramer is the author of “Independent Queer Cinema: Reviews and Interviews,” and the co-editor of “Directory of World Cinema: Argentina.” Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer

    Published on October 6, 2022