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Bros may not technically be Hollywood's first gay love story — films like Making Love, Jeffrey and Fire Island all precede it — but it's definitely Hollywood's raunchiest gay love story. Co-written and starring comedian Billy Eichner, the big-budget romantic comedy is overseen by producer Judd Apatow and co-writer/director Nicholas Stoller, who are no strangers to including R-rated sex scenes in R-rated rom-coms like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. In fact, that's the kind of equal opportunity approach Eichner hoped for when he signed on to work with the duo.
"At the end of the day, it's a Judd Apatow movie and a Nick Stoller movie," he tells Yahoo Entertainment. "Their movies have a long history of sex scenes that are very physical and very funny. And I thought, 'Well, why shouldn't we have the same thing?'" (Watch our video interview above.)
In Bros, Eichner plays unlucky in love podcast host/museum curator Bobbie Lieber, who falls in lust with strapping single guy Aaron (Luke Macfarlane). As the duo embark on a tentative romance, they also open up their sex lives to include hot and heavy threesomes (and foursomes) as well as casual Grindr hook-ups with other people. Capturing that aspect of contemporary LGBTQ life is something that was important for the film's out gay stars, and sets Bros apart from the typical Apatow/Stoller joint, where the central couple tends to be monogamous.
"What's fun — especially for straight audiences — is that whole movie is a throwback to the elements of Apatow movies or romantic comedies that we love, but with this fresh, new and somewhat provocative perspective," notes Eichner. "It's not just your run-of-the mill rom-com."
Adds Macfarlane: "Sex doesn't always have to be sentimental. Especially in a lot of the queer movies that we've seen, sex is treated as a very sentimental thing because it was so frightening to people for a long time. But now we can actually have fun with that."
Those scenes were also an education for Stoller, who cops to being a straight director helming a gay rom-com. "What's funny to me is I approached it the way I approached all the sex scenes I've shot," he says. "My joke with Billy was always, 'The only kind of sex scene I'd be uncomfortable shooting is a sexy sex scene!' I don't know how to do the Adrian Lyne thing. But I didn't really feel like it was any different, weirdly. These are two characters with their own foibles expressing themselves through sex in a funny, relatable way."
Naturally, Bros's central creative team knows that there's a more conservative audience out there who won't find the sex scenes funny or relatable. The film is already getting review bombed on IMDB by homophobic viewers, many of whom haven't even seen the movie, leading Eichner to responded on social media.
Asked how he feels about the possibility that internet trolls might claim that he's "corrupting" America's youth, Eichner says that ship has long since sailed. "The youth has already been corrupted! We lost that battle. They're on social media, and they've been watching porn since they had a phone in their hand. Bros is literally like a Hallmark movie compared to what kids are watching on their phones, so let's all calm down."
Stoller, meanwhile, thinks that those trolls who actually take the time to watch Bros may come out with their attitudes changed. "You can feel the audience falling in love with Luke and Billy as the movie goes on," he notes. "The great thing about comedy is when you're laughing at something, you're relating to it and it's humanizing. That's not why I set out to make the movie, but it's hopefully a side benefit."
Even as Bros represents a breakthrough for gay storytelling at the major studio level, Eichner recognizes that the community he's a part of is far more diverse than the white couple at the heart of the film. To that end, the supporting cast is filled with performers who represent the broader spectrum of LGBTQ life, including former Glee star, Dot-Marie Jones, trans actors Eve Lindley and Ts Madison and gender non-conforming reality show scene-stealer, Miss Lawrence. Jones and Lindley both credit Glee with being one of the first mainstream entertainments to expose audiences to the different colors that make up the famous gay pride rainbow flag.
"I am a product of Glee," says Lindley, adding that next barrier Hollywood can break after Bros is a rom-com starring two trans lovers. "I would love to see that, and I think we are ready." For her part, Jones thinks that both Glee and Bros share the same desire for accurate representation. "Bros brought us together," she says. "It's something I honestly never thought I'd see, and working with these amazing people was the most fun thing ever."
Like Lindley, Miss Lawrence sees a future in which different groups get their turn in the spotlight. "This is the first time we get to explore a gay love story in depth, but it won't stop there. There will and there should be films that show what it looks like to be a trans person in love, to be a gender non-conforming person in love, to be a non-binary person in love. Every type of love story has been told with our straight counterparts, and I want to see that same energy when it comes to LGBTQIA people in this art form."
Speaking of love stories, Bros can't resist lobbing gags in the direction of one of Hollywood's most famous gay romances: Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee's Oscar-winning 2005 drama starring straight actors, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, as doomed lovers. At one point in the movie, Bobbie and Aaron go on a date to see a Brokeback-type tragedy and come out of the theater criticizing it as slow and boring. Eichner and Stoller are quick to say that the characters' review doesn't represent their own feelings about Lee's film.
"Brokeback Mountain is a masterpiece," Eichner raves. "It moved me to tears. No one is arguing how beautiful Heath Ledger's performance is in that movie." [Ledger died in 2008.] "I love that movie," Stoller chimes in. "I hear the score and I start crying."
That said, Brokeback Mountain is also the poster child for the kind of tragic gay romance — one made by a largely straight cast and crew — that Hollywood has too often favored telling at the expense of other stories. "We've watched Brokeback Mountain and we've seen it turn out to be a tragedy," says Madison. "Now we have Bros that shows that there is hope — that there is light at the end of the tunnel."
Eichner made a point of following that light as he crafted Bros for the big screen. "Historically, on the rare occasions where Hollywood did center LGBTQ characters, it was always about suffering," he notes. "We're so tortured, we're dying, we're getting killed! It was so, so sad and always told through the perspective of straight filmmakers and straight movie stars. With Bros, we're saying: 'Hey, can't there be a comedy about our lives?' I just want more movies like this. I think it's cool that we're finally getting to tell our own stories and not having them told for us."
— Video produced by Jen Kucsak and edited by Jason Fitzpatrick
Bros is playing in theaters now