One of my favorite films at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival was director Nicholas Stoller’s (The Five-Year Engagement, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) Bros. Co-written by Billy Eichner and Stoller, the film is the first gay rom-com released by a major studio (Universal Pictures) and it features an entirely LGBTQ+ cast. And while that is fantastic and groundbreaking, none of that matters if the film isn’t worth watching. But like Ross Bonaime said in his glowing review, “Bros immediately joins the ranks of the great rom-coms, a hilarious, sexy, and undeniably charming rom-com from beginning to end.”
I couldn’t agree more. Not only is Bros laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s also a great movie.
Shortly after watching the film, I got to speak with Billy Eichner and Luke Macfarlane (who plays Eichner’s love interest). They talked about making the movie in thirty-four days, their chemistry read, how Eichner’s real life factored in the script, what people would be surprised to learn about the making of the film, their thoughts on representation in Hollywood and how it’s changed over the last few years and having to film two big scenes on the first day of filming.
Bros‘ jam-packed cast includes comedy greats from Community‘s Jim Rash, Saturday Night Live breakout star Bowen Yang, and stand-up comedian Guy Branum. The film also stars Ts Madison, Monica Raymund, Harvey Fierstein, Amanda Bearse, Guillermo Díaz, Symone, Eve Lindley, and Dot-Marie Jones. The film is produced by Judd Apatow, Stoller, and Joshua Church. Eichner and Karl Franke serve as executive producer on the film.
Watch what Billy Eichner and Luke Macfarlane had to say in the player above, or you can read over conversation below.
COLLIDER: I really want to say congrats and give a huge thank you to Universal Pictures for making this movie. Can you sort of talk about the fact that they put the money up to tell this story?
BILLY EICHNER: They did. They put the money up. They paid for us to be sitting here right now. No, they’ve been incredible partners [and] collaborators. I give so much credit to them. I have so much gratitude for not only making the movie but how they approached it. Allowing us, not only allowing us, supporting the idea of casting all openly LGBTQ actors and supporting the idea that we would tell an authentic story. That we weren’t sugarcoating anything, that we wanted to make it hilarious, but we also wanted to make it very honest, and I can’t thank them enough. They really have been so supportive. I lived in fear for many years of getting calls like, Oh the script is too gay, or too edgy, or too this or too that. Those calls never arrived. They always were very supportive, and it’s been amazing.
LUKE MACFARLANE: And treating it like a real movie all the way to this point. They’re not putting on the shelf and saying it’ll do its thing. It’ll find its audience. They really are supporting us. Yeah.
Obviously it is imperative that your relationship in the film works. What was it like doing those chemistry reads, figuring out who’s going to be playing opposite you, and what that whole process was like also, for you auditioning for the movie?
MACFARLANE: Yeah, totally. I mean it was that rare experience of reading the script and immediately connecting with it. Just understanding this guy. I knew Billy, I’ve been a big fan of his. We had never actually met personally, so stepping into that room the first time, I felt like I understood the guy and I understood who Aaron was, but I really, really, really wanted to impress him. It was nice when we kind of hit it off in the room. It was very nice.
EICHNER: Yeah, Luke and I just, it’s hard to explain chemistry. We didn’t know each other. I do think that helped in a way, because we got to discover each other as our characters were discovering each other. I don’t know, we’re very similar in certain ways. We’re very different in certain ways. I think we have a lot of respect for each other, but also, I don’t know, intimidate each other a little bit. We make each other a little nervous, partially because we didn’t really know each other. I don’t know. It just worked for some reason. It’s hard to explain why.
MACFARLANE: Now that we know each other we have zero chemistry.
EICHNER: Zero chemistry.
MACFARLANE: It’s just totally.
One of the things I found fascinating was that you guys made this film, I believe, in 34 days.
EICHNER: I think it was something like that.
Which is, for people that don’t realize, that’s not a lot of time.
So can you talk about filming it on a schedule like that, and did you ever feel that pressure?
EICHNER: Nick is truly incredible on set, especially even under what would be very stressful circumstances, and even when there’s so much footage to get every single day when the schedule is a bit more compressed than you would ideally like it to be. He always somehow manages to establish such a calm environment. So even though you know a lot needs to get done, you’re never really feeling stressed like that. That’s really something I appreciate about him so much as an actor. We obviously wrote the movie together, but then once you’re on set he’s a director, and I’m an actor, and I need his support and encouragement, and he needs to make me feel like everything’s going to be okay, even in spite of all the chaos. And he really does a remarkable job doing that.
MACFARLANE: Yeah, truly. And especially in comedy, because nothing kills a joke more than someone screaming, “We’re going to lose the light.” So he really did keep it calm.
EICHNER: I mean, no matter how tight our schedule was, if me or any of the other actors had a bit or a joke they wanted to try, he always made sure there was time for that.
One of the things that I found, it feels very natural what happens in the movie. It feels it’s based on authenticity. Can you talk about maybe some of the examples of your real life permeating into this movie?
EICHNER: My real life permeates into the movie in many ways. Experiences I’ve had with guys, experiences close friends of mine have had in romantic relationships, or with sex, love, dating, all of it. Experiences I’ve had in my professional life. There’s so much of me in there, even though it’s not identical to me, but I really liked the idea. One of the first ideas we started with is the idea that a very confident, self-reliant man, or person, could be undone by falling in love. Someone who really prides himself on not needing someone, both characters do that actually, and I thought, what happens when two people like that fall for each other? How do they navigate that? And I thought there was potential for a lot of comedy in that and also a lot of poignant moments and romantic moments. That was the idea I started with, that I did borrow from my real life, that I thought could be compelling.
One of the things I love learning about is when you’re making any movie or a show is the behind-the-scenes things that people wouldn’t really realize. So what do you think soon-to-be fans of Bros would be surprised to learn about the actual making of the movie?
MACFARLANE: New Jersey for New York?
EICHNER: Let’s not give everything away, Luke. I think you’d be surprised that we shot. It’s amazing, because even though we only shot in 34 days, we had a very, very long script. There were some really big set pieces which were very funny, but ultimately got cut from the movie. I think that might be interesting. And maybe they’ll end up online or something, but we had some really funny things that just got cut because ultimately some of the things were very funny but very silly and absurd. Ultimately we wanted something that felt grounded and honest and real for the most part, while also being very funny. So I always find that fascinating.
MACFARLANE: I also think, and I don’t think I’m giving too much way, the musical number was added during filming, so that was not part of the original script that we started the shootout with and Billy pushed for it or kind of invented it.
EICHNER: It just kind of happened very organically, but I don’t want to give too much away.
MACFARLANE: Yeah, I know. Sorry. I don’t want to give too much away.
EICHNER: Luke’s giving everything away.
You know something? I assure you that there is going to be enough buzz on this that even if people hear specifics, they’re going to want to experience it.
I think that over the last few years there’s been a lot more representation in Hollywood. I really feel like the industry has taken big steps over the last five or 10 years.
What do you guys think about that, and do you think that this is, because this is like a watershed moment in Hollywood making this movie, releasing this movie? Can you sort talk about that aspect and do you think this is the beginning of another chapter.
EICHNER: I hope so. I mean, Bros is not operating in a vacuum, obviously. We’re part of this wave of LGBTQ content that we’re seeing on streaming and online. This is one of very few major studio examples of a movie like this. I think it’s just evidence that the industry finally is evolving. One thing I’m very proud of in the movie is that historically straight actors have gotten to play the vast majority of high-profile LGBTQ roles. We flipped the script in this movie where openly LGBTQ actors not only get to play the LGBTQ roles, but also there’s all the straight roles in the movie, and no one wants to make any strict rules about acting, or art, or who should play what, but it’s just odd. There’s been a real imbalance historically about which actors have gotten what types of opportunities. So I think it’s cool that we’re getting to tell our story, we’re getting to control the narrative, we’re getting to portray ourselves and really fully encompass every aspect of this major studio comedy in a way that we haven’t seen very much of before.
MACFARLANE: And if I can say, hopefully, that translates into seats in the theater and money in the box office, because that’s ultimately what it’s about. It’s trusting that there is a space that will generate income for the studios, let’s be honest. I think we’re starting to see that there is, and they can be confident in that. I just want to see that become more, and more, and more.
EICHNER: For sure.
We literally, just before the camera started rolling, we were talking about how The Woman King is coming out.
That’s a direct result of Black Panther success.
And that’s why I’m so rooting for this movie to be successful because this will open the door to, if it’s financially viable, for so many other stories. Can you talk a little bit about before filming began…you obviously saw how many pages of the script you had, how many scenes, how much everything, which is the scene the night before filming that you were the most in your head either because it’s a big sex scene, its crazy dialogue or a monologue you have to deliver, and you’re only going to get a few takes. What was that night before?
EICHNER: Before our first day of shooting I said to Nick Stoller, I only have two requests, because planning a shooting schedule can be hard, it’s based on location and what actors are available when, and that’s all very complicated, but I said, “I’ll do anything, but I have two requests. I have a big scene in the middle of the movie. This monologue where I reveal a lot to Luke’s character.” I said, “Please don’t have me do that on the first day of shooting. And also don’t have me do any intense sex scenes with Luke on the first day of shooting.” And I did both on the first day of shooting.
MACFARLANE: I can’t do that. Literally, that was the first day of shooting. Yeah, yeah.
EICHNER: Literally. And Nick was like, “I’m really sorry. The way locations work and everything, we have to do these on the first day.” And that was something I really had to wrap my head around, but I’m proud of how it all came out.
Do you think he maybe put that on the schedule just to sort relay your fears and say you have to just dive in deep on the first day, or it was just scheduling?
EICHNER: No. I think it was literally logistics.
EICHNER: I wish it was that poetic and artistic.
EICHNER: But I think it was just like, “No, there’s this house we really want to shoot it, and they’ll only let us shoot there on our first day of shooting. So prepare yourself.”
MACFARLANE: Yeah, yeah, exactly. I remember shooting that scene, and the first day of shooting you’re learning everybody’s name. You still don’t know the DP’s name, you still don’t know the people that are doing your hair and stuff. And I’m lying there listening to this monologue and going, what movie are we making, because you’re also having that conversation in your head. You’re like, what is this thing we’re making? And this monologue, I think, is the heart of the movie in so many ways. So yeah. We really had to dive in.
Bros opens in theaters September 30.