Billy Eichner Waited a Lifetime for 'Brothers'

bOr Eichner can’t believe this is happening. He really never thought this day would come. Even five years of co-writing, producing, starring in and now promoting your film brothers, it’s still surreal that it exists. “I just look at the screen and I’m like, ‘Is that me?'” he says.

43-year-old Eichner is not modest – for a long time it was truly unimaginable. because brothers is a major studio romantic comedy, produced by Judd Apatowin the tradition of He knocked and A train wreckk with a revolutionary difference: it’s not a boy-meets-girl story, but a boy-meets-boy story.

It’s conventional in the sense that the entire action is built around the relationship between its romantic leads, the Eichner podcaster/museum director Bobby and the decidedly more reserved Aaron, played by A highlight of the Luke Macfarlane Christmas film. But brothers, out Sept. 30, is radical in its targeting of gay culture’s finer points like Grindr etiquette and poppers, as well as its repeated references to LGBTQ history. As with any rom com true to form, the devil is in the details, but this time he’s flying a rainbow flag.

Eichner had a memorable run Parks and recreation areasexpressed Timon in Disney’s 2019 live action remake Lion Kingand played Matt Drudge in the 2021 limited series Impeachment: An American Crime Story. But he is still probably best known for his work on TV show They were on the street, which took place 2011-17. There he was downright diabolical, quizzing unsuspecting New Yorkers about pop culture, sometimes with celebrity like Mariah Carey, often shouting in their faces. He claims that this persona was satirical, and Eichner’s IRL vibe, even over Zoom, was toned down several notches. Speaking of brothers, he was thoughtful about his “historical” film and what it means for a culture that has long been starved for queer content. He is the first openly gay man to write and star in a major studio film; it is perhaps the greatest film to come out of the studio comedy system to trace the formation of a relationship in the modern world of gay men. But whatever the former is, there’s no denying it’s a big deal.

And of course, part of Eichner doesn’t believe in the whole thing, but another part of him has very much believed since he was a kid growing up in Queens that being in a big movie was his destiny. He admitted he’s an “unlikely” leading man but has the confidence to appear on screen shirtless and show his ass. He thinks he and MacFarlane have “really good chemistry” and that when he’s watching brothers— which he has seen five times — he is “swept away.” His capsule review of his own film? “I really love it,” he says. He wore a baseball cap bearing the title during our interview and his social media feeds were saturated with brothers-Similar posts.

He has come a long way since then screenwriter and director Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Neighbours) approached him to ask if he would be interested in writing and starring in a gay rom com. Stoller, Eichner said, got the idea for the screening of Netflix show Friends from college, which Stoller created and Eichner appeared in. Stoller reached out to Eichner between the show’s two seasons. Eichner had never written a screenplay before and had no story in mind, but “instinctively” said yes. “Once I started, I realized I had so much to say,” he says.

Eichner and Stoller, who would eventually direct, went back and forth: One would write a scene, the other would revise. Stoller learned the nuts and bolts of screenwriting, while Eichner had “over 20 years of experience” behind him as an openly, sexually active gay man.


Eichner, right, as Bobby and Luke MacFarlane as Aaron in Bros (Nicole Rivelli—Universal Studios)

Eichner, right, as Bobby and Luke MacFarlane as Aaron in Bros

Nicole Rivelli — Universal Studios

brothers is as obsessed with pop culture as any product of Eichner’s brain should be (there are particularly funny running gags about Strange eye and increasingly diverse programming on the Hallmark network, referred to here as Hallheart). Beyond the political implications of delving into gay life, he also aspires to create something “that lives up to the standards of great romantic comedies.” He mentioned several such inspirations during our 90-minute conversation: Broadcast news (he checked the name five times), Moon strike and Annie Hall (three times) and Tutsi (once).

“Authenticity” is a word Eichner uses often. The film’s theme, at least on a meta level, is a refutation of the “love is love” cries for marriage equality. brothers very explicit (and in explicit sex scenes) that love is not really love. “It’s a lie we had to make up to convince you idiots to treat us fairly,” Bobby explains in the film. “Love is not love. Our relationship is different. Our sex lives are different. During our interview, Eichner offered a more subdued spin — acknowledging the phrase’s political significance and essential truth, but maintaining his character’s claim that it lacks nuance. But given the attacks on trans rights and Dobbs’ Opinion of Clarence Thomas assuming the Supreme Court might be headed to overturn gay marriage rights, were these “idiots” convinced enough to warrant exposing the fallacy of the phrase? “Honestly, I don’t think saying ‘love is love is love’ to Clarence Thomas, at this point, is going to move the needle with him very much,” Eichner says with a shrug.

Eichner says he ended up writing what he knew. And the words flowed, but not without trepidation. “I was conditioned to think that if I was too honest about my life in my work, it wouldn’t be available, that nobody would buy it, that nobody would see it, that ordinary people wouldn’t want to watch it,” says he. That particular anxiety comes through on screen during an emotional scene set on a beach in the gay mecca of Provincetown, Massachusetts, where Bobby laments, “I’ve always been too gay or too niche or made people feel uncomfortable. Even my dad, who was so wonderful and supportive, I remember him saying, ‘You know not everyone wants to listen to this gay stuff all the time.’ But what was I supposed to do?”

He worried in particular about how the studio would react to the length of this beach monologue, which was “heavily and very specifically inspired by real moments in my life”. Universal, he says, specifically praised that scene after an early screening.

How much of Billy is in Bobby is hard to say—when asked for a percentage, Eichner demurred. Still, he claims the film is “heavily autobiographical.” And even when it isn’t, it was still useful. He said this writing brothers it was a good reminder not to overlook the potential for romance in his own life, as he is “often” and in fact currently single. “It’s very rare that you meet someone who you really connect with in a really special, impactful way who isn’t someone you just settle for,” he says. “And I’ve never been one to feel the need to settle for anything.” However, he adapted his script to refrain from sending the typical rom com message that the meaning of life is “a romantic relationship with another person and if you don’t understand it, your life is a failure.”

While his particular experience as a man in the public eye for nearly 10 years may represent a kind of rarefied spin on the urban white gay experience, Eichner rejects the idea that fame has gotten in the way of his fraternity house. “If you want to, you can make the choice to act like a normal person and just go with the flow and stay healthy that way,” he says. He uses apps but says he doesn’t send photos of his junk to potential partners – unlike Bobby in the movie.

brothers may be an overall fresh take on a tried and tested film genre, but elements of it are true to the way Hollywood has worked for a long time — namely, it’s a story brought to you by white people about white people falling in love. Bobby self-deprecatingly admits at one point that he’s “just a boring old cis white gay guy,” and yet the script around him seems to disagree—he’s not boring at all, brothers hard. He’s someone whose story takes precedence, someone who deserves to be heard as a pontificate on various aspects of queer culture.

On the optics of refraction of rom-com ceiling as a white man, Eichner said, “You’d have to be completely distracted not to think about that.” Ultimately, he said he wrote the script as a vehicle for himself, and he’s actually a cis white gay man. He didn’t feel confident writing about the intersectional issues that would be necessary if his love interest was colorful. “I’m smart enough to know that even though there may be some overlap on these issues between white gay men and men of color, I didn’t think anyone wanted my opinion,” he says. Ultimately, he pointed to the overall diversity of the cast, which aside from Kristin Chenoweth and Debra Messing (who has a cameo), is made up entirely of LGBTQ artists including TS Madison, Bowen Yang and Guillermo Diaz.

Besides, Eichner reasoned, “The whole point of this is that we’re making a movie that’s so funny and so relatable and so touching to all audiences, mainstream and LGBTQ, that the industry and other big studios are encouraged to make more movies and from different perspectives.” If Eichner has his say, he will remain in the vanguard. He signed up to participate Amazon Studios’ Ex-husbandswhich he described as “a big comedy about gay divorce,” and he is attached to a biopic of famous (and barely) incarcerated comedian Paul Lind.

Meanwhile, he hopes to win the hearts of one hetero at a time. He gushed about the reactions from early screenings of brothersrecalling a text he received from a friend telling him: “It’s funny, but it also made me want to go home and tell my wife I love her.”

Eichner’s answer is surprisingly serious. “I was really touched by it,” he says. “There is still hope for honest men.”

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