Did Billy Eichner’s “Bros” just make history at the Toronto International Film Festival? It certainly felt like it.
The Universal movie is breaking all kinds of barriers: It’s the first gay rom-com ever made by a major studio, the first with an all openly LGBTQ cast and Eichner is the first openly gay man to ever write and star in a studio movie. Audiences finally got to see the movie for themselves in Toronto on Friday night and, judging by the shrieks of laughter throughout the screening, it was a hit.
“I want to thank TIFF for letting a comedy into a movie festival!” Eichner yelled into the audience before the film rolled, making a valid point about the dearth of studio comedies that world premiere at top international film festivals.
Eichner stars in “Bros” as Bobby, a frail museum head who’s down on his luck with the complicated, modern dating world. That is, until he runs into Luke Macfarlane’s Aaron, a buff lawyer who’s the complete opposite of Bobby — but changes everything for him.
Like any rom-com, the two have their own meet-cute (this time at a gay dance club) that turns into a whirlwind romance. Nicholas Stoller (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “Neighbors”) directs the film, which also features Bowen Yang, Jim Rash, Dot-Marie Jones, Harvey Fierstein and more hilarious cast members.
“Bros” played to an extremely enthusiastic audience at the Princess of Wales theatre, many of whom stuck around for the post-screening Q&A. While Toronto audiences don’t seem to engage in the lengthy standing ovations that are now becoming the norm at fests like Cannes and Venice, the crowd was on its feet for almost two minutes when the cast emerged.
“Keep it going longer than ‘The Whale’!” shouted Eichner, referencing the six-minute standing O for the Brendan Fraser movie in Venice last week. “Only 20 more minutes of this!”
In the Q&A, both Eichner and Macfarlane spoke to the wider significance of “Bros” and what the movie will come to represent for the LGBTQ community.
“I can’t help but think of the journey Aaron goes on, and what I would be, watching this movie if I was 18, 19 years old,” said Macfarlane.
Eichner added that the LGBTQ national history museum in the film is still very much a fictional concept and “exists in ‘Bros’ before it exists in real life in America.”
“When I was doing research for it, there were so many things even I as a middle-aged man didn’t know, that I don’t know about our own history, because we are never taught our own history. We’re never taught it; straight people are never taught it. We don’t know who we are in the context of history.”
In his Variety cover story last week, Eichner discussed the responsibility he feels for “Bros” to do well.
“I’ve worked so hard on it, I care so much about it, and I want it to do well for the sake of the LGBTQ stories getting greenlit. So there’s a burden I feel, much as I want to sit here and just talk about how funny the movie is.”
Prior to the screening, the cast and crew, along with top Universal executives, convened at Le Germain for Variety’s party honoring the movie and Eichner’s cover.
“Bros” releases in theaters on Sept. 30.