No bones about it, Billy Eichner is an LGBTQ+ icon. The New York-raised actor has been in the business for over 20 years now and I think it’s fair to say that he’s up there with the comedy greats.
With an impressive resumé ranging from guest appearances in Dickinson, Parks and Recreation and American Horror Story, as well as his iconic Billy on the Street, it’s no wonder I was as starstruck as I was about to sit down and chat with him on Zoom on a rainy Tuesday evening.
We spoke about his new film Bros that he co-wrote and stars in, and GCN is delighted to be able to share the hilarious trailer below. Billy also spoke about the importance of queer representation, his comedy inspirations and more. So without further ado, let’s get started!
Hi Billy Eichner! It is so lovely to meet you. The rom com is my favourite movie genre. What can you tell us about your new film Bros?
They’re one of my favourite genres too. I grew up in the ’80s and the ’90s which was an era of some really fantastic, smart, sophisticated, funny, romantic comedies that were also big mainstream hits. You had movies like Moonstruck, Tootsie, Broadcast News, Annie Hall, Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail etc. I would go to the movies with my parents or with my friends constantly and these were the movies that really made me fall in love with Hollywood.
They made me want to be a part of Hollywood, and yet, I never saw myself or my friends, meaning gay people, in these movies. We were completely ignored, completely erased. As we got into the late ’90s, we started to pop up as maybe a best friend, here and there, and often we were the butt of the joke. We were the punch line. And that is something I wanted to try to correct with this movie.
When the opportunity to make this came up, I said to myself, ‘well, what story do I even have to tell?’ I’m a middle aged gay guy. I’ve been openly gay my entire career. I started over 20 years ago in comedy and I mean, it was such a straight male dominated field. And it still is, you know, in large part, though, things have obviously gotten way better.
This was such a huge opportunity because it’s never happened before and I thought that I really wanted to make a rom com that tried to hold itself to the standards of those great rom coms that I grew up watching. I’m not saying we’ve made a movie as good as the movies I’ve mentioned because those are really classic films that have stood the test of time, but I at least wanted to try to hold ourselves to those standards. It really meant the world to me to be able to try to make one that was about gay people.
does billy eichner know “lets go lesbians” changed my life
— salem river 🏴☠️ ⚢ (@swashbucklore) December 21, 2021
Bros has already made history as being the first gay rom com from a major studio and the first to have an all LGBTQ+ cast. How do you feel about that?
I mean, it’s overwhelming, really, when I think about it, and I’m thrilled. I’m really lucky because I think there are a lot of LGBTQ+ performers, actors, comedians and writers who came before me, who should have gotten this opportunity. Hollywood and the world at large, was just too narrow minded and scared. I’m in the right place at the right time and I’ve been working a really long time. I stuck around long enough and, and I’m getting this opportunity and it’s huge.
This has made me even more driven, to not only make a historic movie, but to make a movie that’s really great. I said to Nick (Stoller), who I wrote the movie with and who directed it, and Judd Apatow, who’s like, you know, this huge comedy producer, but they’ve only made movies about straight people, I said to them, ‘this movie has to be authentic’. We couldn’t just make When Harry Met Sally and plug two guys into the roles because if that’s what you want to do, you’re working with the wrong person.
I think what’s going to make the movie relatable and exciting and fun for straight people, not only gay people, is that the movie is showing you what it’s really like. It’s sort of a peek behind the curtain of gay culture, dating, relationships, love and sex, because we don’t play by those same old fashioned heteronormative rules. The truth is, I don’t think a lot of straight people play by them anymore, either, even though Hollywood doesn’t admit that.
In terms of LGBTQ+ casting, that felt like something we had to do, and it was something that I really wanted to do. Everyone agreed, it wasn’t a fight or an argument. From the beginning, everyone was on board with the idea that the whole cast, even the straight roles, would be played by openly LGBTQ+ actors. We needed to give everyone, not just me, an opportunity to shine here. I wanted to find people from all over the community, different ages, different sexual orientations, different gender identities, and give them an opportunity to shine as well.
I also wanted to show the industry that we can do it. You don’t need a straight male movie star, or even a straight female movie star to build a movie around, we can do it and have some LGBTQ movie stars.
Why do you think LGBTQ+ representation matters?
Because it is always going to be a comforting, empowering, inspiring, life affirming experience to see yourself and the lives of your friends, and your family reflected back at you. That’s really what art is, regardless of the format, you know, whether it’s a book or a movie, or a painting, that’s what you’re looking for. We’ve gotten so few reflections of ourselves, and so few that felt accurate, current, genuinely funny and smart. There are so few stories that take its LGBTQ characters seriously, but also, in a seriously funny way. We’ve gotten so little of that, and I think it’s important, because it inspires you, it comforts you and, you know, it makes you feel good.
Who are some of your biggest comedy inspirations?
Going back to when I was a kid, I had so many… Steve Martin, Martin Short. I love Nathan Lane. I love Joan Rivers, Whoopi Goldberg, George Carlin and Billy Crystal, and then when I got older, people like Sandra Bernhard really inspired me. I grew up in New York City and then after college, I went back and really started to participate in the downtown New York comedy scene and queer comedy scene. You had people like Sandra Bernhard and performers like Kiki and Herb and drag acts and queer acts that made me think that maybe I could carve out a lane for myself somehow.
Bros will make its theatrical release in Irish cinemas on October 28 this year.
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