“I think it’s important that before we got one movie about a gay couple we got two movies about a talking hedgehog,” Billy Eichner said Wednesday night.
The ever-amusing Eichner made an appearance in Las Vegas for Universal’s presentation at CinemaCon. The comic, who’s being awarded Comedy Star of the Year at the industry showcase, is the mastermind behind “Bros,” a rom-com set to be released September 30 that has a cast entirely featuring out LGBTQ actors.
He’s the star and co-writer of the script, while Nicholas Stoller (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “Neighbors”) took on directing duties. The ensemble includes Luke Macfarlane, Harvey Fierstein, Bowen Yang, Symone, Miss Lawrence, Guy Branum, Guillermo Diaz, Amanda Bearse, and Ts Madison.
Straight actors have played gay characters many, many times across Hollywood history. (The Advocate has even compiled a list of 60 times a straight actor has received an Academy Award nomination for playing a gay character.) It’s quite a bit more rare for gay actors to play straight characters. Or trans actors to play cis characters. Eichner thinks that “Bros” will be a breakthrough for the LGBTQ community, as it has multiple queer actors playing straight roles.
“You don’t believe a gay man can play straight but you suspend disbelief for Chewbacca,” Eichner quipped, touting “Bros” as the first gay rom-com ever to come from a major studio, though he’s “not talking about the new Buzz Lightyear movie.”
At this part of the evening’s presentation, major stars were paired on stage with ordinary movie theater employees. Eichner was paired with the manager of an AMC movie theater in Burbank who’s gay and who helped fight California’s gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, along with his husband. A clip from the movie, of which there hadn’t previously been any images released, then played.
It showed Eichner as a podcast host who gets hired by a movie studio to write a gay rom-com. Life imitating art. Bowen Yang says, “I have to go to a pool party and you’re too old to go in the pool, please leave.” Eichner’s character lays out his mission statement: “I don’t want any Hollywood bullshit, no scenes where two gay guys are about to hook up and all of a sudden the camera conveniently pulls away.”
“I always assumed that the powers that be were going to have — if I was playing one of the main roles, which I was obviously going to do because that was the whole idea — my love interest be played by a famous straight actor,” Eichner told The Hollywood Reporter. “We all kind of made the decision at the same time, including Universal, that as the movie was developing, it didn’t make sense for the other lead actor to be played by a straight actor. That was going against everything the movie was trying to say.”
Eichner is very away of how groundbreaking “Bros” is. “All those years of me seeing those movies with my parents as a kid — ‘Pretty Woman,’ ‘Dirty Dancing,’ ‘When Harry Met Sally,’ ‘Annie Hall,’ I could go on — they were never about people like me,” he added to THR. “There are no stories about us falling in love, navigating love, dating, relationships, and you don’t realize what you haven’t gotten until you finally see it. This is an event. It’s the first of its kind. You can feel that in the theater when you’re watching it.”
Additional reporting by Chris Lindahl.