German-American actor Eric Braeden is best known for his portrayal of Victor Newman on the daytime soap The Young and the Restless, a role he has been playing for the past twenty years.
Eric came to America and his teens and worked, among other jobs, as a cowherd before he began his acting career as a Nazi soldier in the 1961 movie Operation Eichmann.
Over the years he has appeared in dozens of TV shows and movies, including the highly regarded sci-fi flick Colossus: The Forbin Project, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, and Titanic.
Eric has also served with Henry Kissinger on the German-American Advisory Board, won an Emmy, got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and received a Federal Medal of Honor from the president of Germany.
Eric is the star and executive producer of the new revenge western The Man Who Came Back, now out on DVD. He recently spoke over the phone to C.G. Hilliard about his new movie, Carol Alt, Sophia Loren, and naked soap stars.
EB: How the Hell are you, man?
CGH: Good! And You?
Good, good, good. Where are you located?
Shit! Is it cold?
Yes, there’s snow and ice.
Colder than a witch’s tit!
Yes. Are you in Montana?
I’m in Los Angeles.
That’s better, I guess.
Can you tell us about The Man Who Came Back?
It’s a classic revenge story. Set in the South in 1880. It’s a very… It’ll grip you, you know? You will not leave your seat, I promise you.
And what’s your character like?
He basically is someone who fought in the Civil War, and like a lot of people who fought in war, he cannot stand the arbitrary abuse of power in civilian life when he comes back, so he decides to go after the people who are exercising that abuse of power. And that abuse of power is directed against him and his family because he stands up for some people. Enormous damage was done to him and his family, so he comes back and wreaks havoc, avenges all the injustice. There you are. Basically, that’s what it is.
Wow. The reason I jokingly asked about Montana is that I read that you were a cowherd in Montana at one time.
Did that experience help you on the film?
Well, yeah, sort of. Once you’ve been around horses, you just remember that obviously. Yeah, it did, to a certain degree, sure?
What’s your character’s relationship to Jennifer O’Dell’s character?
She plays… she plays… Well, she plays a hooker in a saloon. A beautiful hooker in a saloon. It’s not what you think it is. He uses her to protect him from those who are after him. She sort of develops feelings for him and they are consummated in her fantasy.
It’s a fantasy of hers?
What was it like working with her?
Wonderful. Wonderful. It was great to work with her. And to be honest, and I’m not bullshitting. It was great to work with everyone from George Kennedy to Billy Zane from Titanic (I worked with him there).
George and I had worked on my show before. Armand Assante I had always admired as an actor. Carol Alt, who I had known before, was wonderful to work with, Jennifer O’Dell and Sean Young (I had known Sean for a while) Have you seen the film?
No, it’s still being processed. I’m waiting to see it.
Great! It was one of the most memorable experiences in my acting life. I just loved working with these actors who helped me, who supported me, who made it all possible. I will never forget it. I feel an enormous gratitude towards them.
I mean, George Kennedy, at 83 or 84 regaled us with stories of working with John Wayne and Cary Grant and Paul Newman. I cannot say enough about the actors.
You’d known Carol Alt before?
Yes. We were in a celebrity car race at Long Beach. It was the Long Beach Grand Prix and prior to that they had a celebrity race and she was in that and I was in that.
Did she do the Playboy pictorial before or after she filmed the movie?
I have a feeling it was after. I honestly don’t know. She’s a beautiful lady. And so is Jennifer for that matter.
And Sean Young.
And Sean Young. You bet.
What’s your favorite genre to work in?
Well, I would say this kind of revenge thing I enjoy very much. I would prefer to do what I do in this film, namely work in it and control every aspect of it. In other words, I have final artistic control, and that I like because I’m someone who will gladly make us of other peoples’ opinions, but in the end I form my own.
Do you have that kind of control on The Young and the Restless?
No you don’t, because it’s written before you get a hold of it.
What are the best thing and the worst thing about working on Y&R?
The best thing is that you get to practice your craft every day. That is truly the best thing. I’m enormously grateful and very loyal to the show, to having been able to play all facets of a man’s interior life.
I’m deeply grateful to the medium for that. On nighttime television you don’t get to play that all-encompassing emotional life that you do on daytime.
How many women has Victor Newman had?
Oh, he’s had a few. (Laughs)
Did you lose count?
(Laughs) He’s had a few. Yes.
Who’s your favorite actress of all time?
Obviously, Melody Thomas Scott. I’ve worked with her for a few years now. I enjoy working with actually all the women on the show.
And who I would love to work with is Meryl Streep. I think she is close to what we could call a genius in our business. You know?
Yeah, absolutely. Do you remember the first time you ever saw a nude scene in a movie?
Oh boy, a total nude scene?
It could be topless. Whatever made the biggest impression on you.
I would say what made the biggest impression on me was—I’m a little older than you are—but Sophia Loren. I would say her coming out of a wet river or lake or whatever she came out of, I’ll never forget that.
I would say Sophia Loren and Rita Hayworth and Marilyn Monroe, they all stick in your mind, In the minds of men of my generation.
Do you have any favorite new actresses?
I enjoy enormously working with Sharon Case, you know? And Heather Tom. In other words, I can only refer to the ones I work with.
In soap operas, we always assumed that the actresses are wearing some kind of a modesty patch when they’re doing these near-nude scenes. Is that always the case?
(Laughs) Well, (laughs) well, yes. (laughs). It is partly.
(Laughs) You mean around the breasts? Some do and some don’t?
Some of the women are actually topless and don’t wear a modesty patch?
Wow. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’ve been very grateful to have been on the show [Y&R] as long but I have enjoyed making this movie more than anything else in my life, I think.
Including Colossus: The Forbin Project?
Yes, because I had more control. And I’m now much more appreciative of everything that goes into it. And being a little older in this business, it’s helped me a great deal to understand thing and I’ve enjoyed it enormously, just enormously.
Well, thanks and I look forward to watching the movie.
Thanks and be cool, my man.
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