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Billy Eichner: Hollywood's first major gay rom-com 'Bros' is joyful, hilarious

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Luke Macfarlane (L) and Billy Eichner attend the premiere of "Bros" at Regal LA Live in Los Angeles on Wednesday. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/2594e7ef357eb1c76907e573ef740c17/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Luke Macfarlane (L) and Billy Eichner attend the premiere of "Bros" at Regal LA Live in Los Angeles on Wednesday. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- Billy Eichner and Luke Macfarlane say Bros makes history as the first romantic comedy to focus on a gay couple and be released in the theaters by a major film studio.

And that's important to them.

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"I just wanted to put a really joyful, hilarious movie out there into the world that shows how not only funny, but complicated and multi-dimensional we are as LGBTQ+ folk," Eichner told reporters in a recent Zoom interview. "I'm really proud of that, actually."

Directed by Nicholas Stoller and produced by Judd Apatow, the film opens in theaters Friday and features an entirely LGBTQ+ principal cast, including Jim Rash, Ts Madison, Monica Raymund, Guillermo Díaz, Guy Branum, Bowen Yang, Harvey Fierstein and Amanda Bearse.

Stoller and Eichner co-wrote the story about podcaster Bobby (Eichner), who is working tirelessly to open an LGBTQ+ museum in New York City when he inconveniently falls in love with Aaron (Macfarlane), a laid-back lawyer who is definitely not his type.

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"We've had many romantic comedies over the years that I've loved about straight characters -- men and women falling in love, falling out of love -- and I love those movies," said Eichner, 44.

"They made me laugh. They made me cry. I grew up with those movies, but we've never had one released on this scale about a gay couple and with this many LGBTQ+ characters and this many LGBTQ+ actors playing the roles, including the straight roles."

Eichner and Macfarlane didn't know each other before they worked together on the Universal Pictures production.

"Chemistry is a funny thing. We lucked 'in,'" recalled Macfarlane, 42.

"I went in and auditioned for him, and [the filmmakers] tell me, 'Sparks flew.' It was nice to get to know somebody while you are making a film with them because you are mirroring that experience of early dating life," he said. "Had we been old friends, we might not have been as intimidated by or curious about each other."

The actors said they could relate to how their characters' queerness impacted their career choices.

While Bobby is on the board of an institution that spotlights LGBTQ+ issues and celebrates the community's trailblazers, Aaron ignores his dream of becoming a chocolatier because he feels it would draw attention to his sexuality.

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"One thing I share with my character is that I was always a very confident, unapologetically gay man since the very beginning of my career as a comedian and actor in New York when I started out over 20 years ago," Eichner said.

"I was always very proud of that. I always wanted to be successful and I wanted to make movies and be on TV shows, but I wanted to do it honestly and on my own terms.

"It took Hollywood a long time to come around to that, to celebrate that and find that as admirable as I always thought it was back in the day, but I'm glad they came around now."

Macfarlane said he came out as gay 17 years ago, even though he was advised against doing so by those who thought it would limit the kinds of roles he'd be offered.

"I love Hollywood. It's a great place to be, but I wasn't going to not be queer for the sake of doing an action film," he said.

Despite the specificity of the characters and circumstances of their relationship, Eichner said he thinks the film has universal and relatable themes -- namely how difficult it is to be yourself and then find someone who will not only accept, but also love you for that.

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The film also is loaded with fun pop-culture signposts viewers don't need to be gay to understand or appreciate.

"Niche is in the eye of the beholder," Eichner said.

"Why are the cultural references that me and my gay friends and our girlfriends who love pop culture all recognize immediately? Why is that niche?" he added.

"It was only niche from the stereotypical perspective of straight men or the segment of society that maybe doesn't get those references, but there is no reason that they shouldn't. For me, the Super Bowl is niche."

Macfarlane chimed in: "Yeah, Emily Dickinson didn't travel outside the garden in her back yard and became the greatest living female poet.

"That's a pretty niche world she operated inside of. I think you find your world in small areas, and then it's incumbent on the viewer to see themselves in that."

Macfarlane also noted that the film is coming out at a time when there aren't a lot of romantic comedies playing in theaters.

"This is not only historic for the gay community, but it's also a reminder that we like going to rom-coms, so, hopefully, we can help infuse the world again with a [genre] that was so popular, especially when I was growing up," he said.

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"It seems to have disappeared. We're kind of in a bit of a cynical time that way. People are more interested in people fighting each other to death than laughing and falling in love."

Eichner said there have been several advance screenings of Bros, and the one thing they all have in common is that audiences "are laughing out loud from start to finish."

"Everyone can certainly relate to what the characters are going through as two men who are really trying so hard to be strong and not vulnerable, but, ultimately, are in love and want to have that experience, which forces them to let their guard down," Eichner said.

"The specifics of what's happening may be eye-opening to people, which is what I think makes it a fresh, exciting romantic comedy, unlike the many we've seen over the years that play by the same rules.

"That's what makes it worth going to the theater to see. It is different. It is specific to a culture you might think you know, but you don't really know. But all of the emotions are the same."

Macfarlane said his mother, who is 75-year-old and Canadian, saw the R-rated movie and loved it.

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"She laughed and cried," the actor said.

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