Makeup artists fill 'ER' with blood and guts
October 31, 1997
Web posted at: 10:54 p.m. EST (0354 GMT)
From Correspondent Dennis Michael
HOLLYWOOD (CNN) -- On a sound stage at the Warner Brothers lot, surgeons from "ER" try a tricky procedure to save a woman's badly injured leg. But things are done a little differently in this particular operating room.
Instead of nurses dabbing perspiration from the doctors' brows, technicians add it for effect. And instead of equipment to remove blood from the surgical area, artists add more stage blood between takes.
Makeup effects veteran Werner Keppler and his son Rolf are called on to do all kinds of special procedures in this hospital. Nobody on "ER" is going to have the requisite bloodstained gloves without the help of the makeup team.
"ER," like "M*A*S*H" before it, depends on the doctors proving themselves in life-and-death situations, and gruesome effects are necessary to that process.
"In our show, in the beginning, they were a little skeptical about it because we didn't know how the public would accept the blood and guts," Keppler said. "But I think over the years now, the public will accept more blood and more of the realistic body injuries.
"Now, the producers and the writers feel more comfortable showing more things."
Keppler's make-up trailer is a kind of Hollywood version of the mad scientist's laboratory.
"We have different kinds of bullet holes here," he said. "We have .38-caliber bullet holes, .45-caliber is the big one and we have .22, also."
When the script calls for a nasty cut, all Keppler needs is a little food thickener to produce a startlingly realistic injury in short order.
"All we do," he said, "is fill in a mold with our plastic and peel the nasty little thing out, and it'll be glued to the face or the arm."
So what looks like a terrible injury is, in fact, a tribute to a terrific craftsman.