gays at bat

Guys & Balls: 20 surprising facts about the star-studded gay rom-com ‘The Broken Hearts Club’

Image Credit: ‘The Broken Hearts Club,’ Columbia TriStar Home Video

In 2000, queer cinema got a much-needed breath of fresh air with the release of The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy.

The film followed a group of friends in West Hollywood as they navigate friendships, romance, heartbreak and career ups-and-downs. It stood out against the offerings of gay stories in film at the time since it focused on traditional rom-com storylines rather than heavier themes like AIDS, coming out, and sex.

The film also featured early performances from actors that would go on to have established careers like Timothy Olyphant, Billy Porter, and Zach Braff (plus a supporting turn from the Jennfier Coolidge). Not to mention, it’s written and directed by Greg Berlanti, one of the most successful and powerful gay creative executives in working in Hollywood today, whose next big-screen romance Fly Me To The Moonhits theaters this summer.

Scroll on below for 20 facts you may not know about this groundbreaking comedy…

1. Director Greg Berlanti based the film on his circle of friends

Image Credit: ‘The Broken Hearts Club,’ Columbia TriStar Home Video

The film was Berlanti’s directorial debut, and as he revealed to the Advocate at the time of the release in 2000, “I knew I wanted to show a group of friends, where one character is trying to break away and one character is just entering the group. Some of the characters are autobiographical.”

2. The Howie/Marshall storyline is based on a relationship Berlanti once had

Image Credit: ‘The Broken Hearts Club,’ Columbia TriStar Home Video

In that same interview, Berlanti revealed that the characters played by Matt McGrath and Justin Theroux were based on an on-and-off romance he once had himself.

3. The film had the working title of The Broken Hearts League

Image Credit: ‘The Broken Hearts Club,’ Columbia TriStar Home Video

Berlanti mentioned in an exclusive Queerty 20th anniversary retrospective that the movie went under the title of 8x10s for the longest time, nicknamed after what actors call their headshots, as he had a “penchant for falling for aspiring actors.”

4. The production was funded because of John Mahoney and Timothy Olyphant

In that same retrospective, it was revealed that Sony agreed to greenlight the $1 million dollar film because of veteran actor John Mahoney’s involvement in the project, as well as “It Boy” actor Timothy Olyphant agreeing to play the lead.

5. Dean Cain was advised against playing a gay character

Image Credit: ‘The Broken Hearts Club,’ Columbia TriStar Home Video

Cain revealed to Entertainment Weekly that his agents advised him against playing a gay role at that point in his career: “I was very clear. I read a beautiful, hysterical, witty, touching, romantic, fantastic movie, and I wanted to be a part of it.”

6. The film features a cameo from Dawson’s Creek‘s Kerr Smith

Image Credit: ‘The Broken Hearts Club,’ Columbia TriStar Home Video

Berlanti was working as a showrunner on the hit television series at the time, and when Smith got a hold of the script, he enjoyed it so much he asked to be a part of it. He has a small role as the catcher from the rival team that Dean Cain’s Cole hits on.

7. Filming lasted for thirteen days on the fall of 1999

Image Credit: ‘The Broken Hearts Club,’ Columbia TriStar Home Video

The filming was done mostly in Los Angeles: West Hollywood for outside locations, while some interiors were shot in Long Beach. 

8. Reviews compared the film to the 1970s classic The Boys In The Band

Image Credit: ‘The Boys In The Band,’ Kino Lorber

Many critics, including Roger Ebert and Mick LaSalle, compared the themes and story to William Friedkin’s adaptation of the seminal play, though both praised The Broken Hearts Club for being more hopeful and cheerful.

9. It is an award-winning film

Dean Cain, Andrew Keegan & Kerr Smith at The 12th Annual GLAAD Media Awards | Photo Credit: Getty Images

The film received the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film (Limited Release) in 2001, where it won against the films Aimée & Jaguar, Before Night Falls and Urbania.

10. The cast decided their characters should all wear necklaces

Image Credit: ‘The Broken Hearts Club,’ Columbia TriStar Home Video

Berlanti recalls to EW that every day the cast members would bring new necklaces and accessories for their characters to wear, until he had to put a stop to it: “There were half the number of puka shells that would be in that movie if those actors had their way.”

11. Berlanti was not going to originally direct

On the set of ‘The Broken Hearts Club,’ Image Credit: Columbia TriStar Home Video

Berlanti never envisioned himself directing the film, until Dawson’s Creek producer Mickey Liddell talked him into it. “It was personal. It was his story. Greg knew how [the characters] should sound. He knew the humor. He knew how to do it.” he told Queerty.

12. Zach Braff’s former film teacher has a small cameo

Image Credit: ‘The Broken Hearts Club,’ Columbia TriStar Home Video

David Downs—who has a small uncredited role as a therapist with no lines—was Zach Braff’s teacher at Northwestern University. He also went on to have small appearances in Scrubs.

13. Berlanti was inspired by many movies about straight friendships

Image Credit: ‘The Broken Hearts Club,’ Columbia TriStar Home Video

Speaking to the Advocate in 2000, Berlanti shared his concern that there were no friendship movies that reflected the experiences he had with his own friends, so he copied the structure and design of films like Parenthood, Breaking Away, Diner and Hannah And Her Sister and infused them with his gay point of view.

14. Ryan Murphy helped with revisions and notes of the script

Greg Berlanti and Ryan Murphy circa 2022 | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Ryan Murphy was a close friend of Berlanti’s, and an up-and-coming writer himself at the time. Berlanti claimed in a conversation with Queerty that the Glee creator’s notes became “instrumental” in developing the script. 

15. The film held auditions in the same room as Bring It On

Image Credit: ‘Bring It On,’ Universal Pictures

Berlanti tells EW that casting director Joseph Middleton was working on the classic cheerleading comedy at the same time, and he would borrow the rooms they were using: “I got to hear so many Bring It On auditions because I would always go in after and borrow the casting room for like 15-20 minutes.”

16. The cast was encouraged to go out together to gay bars

Image Credit: ‘The Broken Hearts Club,’ Columbia TriStar Home Video

The actors revealed to EW that they underwent what they called “gay school,” which involved bonding outside of filming and going out to bars together. “It was just so immediate. In my experiences with women, there’s subtleties you need to read into, and in the gay world it was so open-and-shut. It was amazing to experience that,” Ben Weber recalls.

17. Berlanti was editing the movie while running Dawson’s Creek

Image Credit: ‘The Broken Hearts Club,’ Columbia TriStar Home Video

In order to get it ready for Sundance consideration, he had to get at least an hour of the film edited, which meant working on it and Dawson’s Creek at the same time: “I edited like 60 minutes of it by November, and it got into Sundance,” he tells EW.

18. Zach Braff considers this his first big, breakout role

Image Credit: ‘The Broken Hearts Club,’ Columbia TriStar Home Video

Although he had done several smaller parts before, The Broken Hearts Club—and Berlanti in particular—have a special place in Braff’s career, as he tells EW: “In terms of having a juicy role, he really gave me my first big part.”

19. The film only grossed $2 million

Image Credit: ‘The Broken Hearts Club,’ Columbia TriStar Home Video

It may seem like a disappointment by today’s standard, but it did recoup its $1 million dollar production budget, plus the film never made it into more than one hundred theaters nation-wide. A small but mighty accomplishment!

20. John Mahoney used this film as a way to finally acknowledge his private life

Image Credit: ‘The Broken Hearts Club,’ Columbia TriStar Home Video

John Mahoney, who plays restaurant owner and father figure Jack, was a veteran of screen and stage at that point. He had never openly discussed his personal life in fear that it would hurt his career, but he saw this film as “a way to acknowledge his own sexuality in a subtle way without having to surrender the whole of his privacy.”

Help make sure LGBTQ+ stories are being told...

We can't rely on mainstream media to tell our stories. That's why we don't lock Queerty articles behind a paywall. Will you support our mission with a contribution today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated


  • James

    My husband and I still use “meanwhile. . .” to point out a hot guy at the store or in public. We figure, if they get it, they’ll be flattered, but most would never get it.

  • wikidBSTN

    One of my favorites – funny, sad, nuanced, great cast, well-acted, with very good production values. One of those films that makes you smile when you think about it.

  • theaterbloke

    I always looked on this film as being what the American version of QAF should have been. There is an almost one to one correspondence between the characters of both works but the Broken Hearts guys are written better than their Pittsburgh counterparts. And the script is more succinct which enhances the story. OASN, I also find myself saying “meanwhile” when I spot a hot guy.

Comments are closed.