Billy Eichner has guest starred in some of television’s most beloved shows including Parks and Recreation, American Horror Story and Dickinson to name but a few. He’s also instantly recognisable from Billy on the Street, a show where he tears around the paths of NYC with nothing but a microphone, plucking random strangers and quizzing them with pop-culture questions.
These successes, as impressive as they are, have all led up to this present moment in his career. Eichner’s latest endeavour has seen him make history writing, producing and starring in the first ever big studio LGBTQ+ rom-com, Bros.
Making the semi-autobiographical film has been a dream come true for the actor, and one that was heavily inspired by his own life experiences. He shared, “It really is a mix of some autobiographical elements and things that are entirely fictional. We wanted to make a really funny movie, that was our priority. So of course, some of the situations are heightened.
“I think the reason the movie makes people laugh so much, straight people, gay people, is because the situations regarding dating and meeting someone and getting to know them and playing that whole cat and mouse game is so relatable to everyone. So obviously, a lot of it is inspired by real life, even if it’s not identical.”
The movie follows Bobby Lieber (Billy Eichner), a museum curator with commitment issues who unexpectedly falls in love with Aaron (Luke McFarlane), a ‘macho’ lawyer. It’s a new take on the traditional opposites attract trope and it would seem that Eichner hit the jackpot with his scene partner, Luke McFarland, as their chemistry is off the charts.
“I think what actually helped is that I didn’t know Luke at all before the movie. I met Luke during the audition process and I knew who he was and he knew who I was, but we’d never met before in real life. I think that actually gave our relationship on camera a real sense of mystery and friction in a way, because as our characters got to know each other, we were also getting to know each other in real life at the same time.
“Sometimes, chemistry is just a magical thing. It was pretty obvious from the first time I read with Luke that there was some special spark there. It’s hard to even explain why or how, I’m just happy that it’s there. Otherwise, the movie wouldn’t work.”
The actor is aware of the steps it took throughout his career to get him to where he is today. As he has evolved, so too has Hollywood into a much more inclusive and accepting place. It’s hard to believe that we are only seeing the first big studio LGBTQ+ rom-com in 2022 but it’s a long-overdue invitation for more of these important stories to be told.
Eichner faced judgement in the early stages of his career, involving a manager telling him to be “less gay”, a situation which is echoed in the film when his character Bobby is told not to be himself. He elaborated, “I started out in comedy, which was such a straight male dominated world, especially 20 years ago.
“People had no problem saying all kinds of things to my face. I had a manager at the time, a straight woman, who, in 2006 told me she was inviting very important agents to see my live comedy show in New York. She told me, I should make the show ‘less gay’. I could go on about the different ways, very obvious ways and more subtle ways, that that message was sent over the years. I always rolled my eyes at it for many reasons, not only is it insulting, but it’s also impractical because you are who you are.
“As a comedian and as a writer, you’re taught to be honest about your life experiences. Like I say in the movie - ‘what else was I supposed to write about? This is the life that I know.’ I wasn’t ever a person who was going to hide who I was, or pretend I was someone else in order to be successful. I made the choice very early on that I was going to be successful and it was going to be on my own terms. I don’t know where that confidence came from but it was what I was very driven to do. And so I did it.”
Eichner is a self-proclaimed rom-com enthusiast, something that is mirrored throughout this film. The multi-faceted genre has been gathering cobwebs over the last few years. Films in the vein of the classic rom-coms simply aren’t made anymore. This is a task that the comedian took in his stride. A risk no doubt, but with a flawless landing. Bros re-imagines and re-ignites the atmosphere of those beloved films through a completely new lens.
Eicnher talked about his own favourite scenes in the movie, although it was initially hard to narrow it down. “I loved shooting the scenes in the museum board room because it really is instantly clear watching those scenes how unique and experienced this movie is. When you look at that museum boardroom scene, it’s not just me, I’m sitting there with five other hilarious people who all come from different corners of the LGBTQ+ community - different generations, different races, different ethnicities, different cultural backgrounds, geographically we’re from all over America and it’s incredible that we’re all getting this opportunity for the first time to shine.
“I also loved being able to shoot with Luke, we have these walking talks that we shot in the village in New York and also on the Upper West Side that really reminded me of the great New York based romantic comedies I grew up with as a kid, like Moonstruck, Tootsie and When Harry Met Sally, all these great movies, where you have couples walking around New York and talking and they’re being witty, and you’re watching them fall in love, but you’ve never seen that with a gay couple, not in a movie of this size, of the scale that’s getting this wide of a release with this much support behind it. So when I was shooting those scenes with Luke walking near Central Park that really hit me.”
Despite the enormous amount of attention and praise the film has already received, Eichner talks about how he just wants people to simply have a good time seeing Bros: “All the history of it aside, I hope that people just laugh a lot, and are moved by it. And that, you know, maybe it provokes a little thought about why it took this long, and where we’re headed from here. I really hope that everyone, but particularly straight audiences who still make up the vast majority of the world, that they really rally around the movie because it’s a hilarious movie and funny is funny. And when something is moving, and real and honest, it should affect everyone.
“I hope that the audience at large, meaning the straight audience, really makes a point of going to see this movie in the movie theatre so that they have a great time, the movie is a blast. And also, it gives Hollywood a little boost of confidence to say, ‘Oh, okay, people want movies like this’.
“So I hope this is just the beginning in many ways, but ultimately, I just want people to laugh a lot. The world is very bleak, and very stressful and the news is so awful all the time. I think Bros is really a great escape from all of that.”
As Eichner says himself, “I don’t think the historic part of it means very much if the movie itself isn’t hysterically funny, smart and moving. That’s the experience that we want people to have.”
He couldn’t have succeeded more.