Werner Keppler’s ST II Makeup Contributions

Continuing StarTrek.com's ongoing photographic series celebrating the behind-the-scenes artists who made Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan special despite having to deal with budgetary, time and technological challenges, today guest bloggers Maria Jose and John Tenuto turn their attention — and yours — to makeup artist Werner Keppler.

One of the joys of our research is getting to digitize and collect the amazing on set photographs, most taken by Bruce Birmelin, showing the artists working day-to-day from November 1981 until January 1982 during production of TWOK. These photographs from the Papers of Nicholas Meyer Collection at the University of Iowa explore Keppler’s masterful makeup work on Ricardo Montalban and Merritt Butrick.

Indeed, the amount of makeup required for The Wrath of Khan may be under-appreciated at first glance because of the lack of aliens featured in TWOK compared to some of the other Trek movies. However, Spock, Saavik, Khan, Peter Preston, and many other characters required specialized makeup – from pointy ears to radiation damage. It was the fine work of Keppler, James L. McCoy, and other makeup artists that contributed greatly to the believability of those characters.

Keppler’s work in science-fiction makeup is a pedigree. He has contributed to many of the genre’s most memorable offerings – from Hook to the V miniseries, and from Buck Rogers with the fantastic makeup of characters like Hawk to Battle for the Planet of the Apes. In addition to TWOK, Keppler also worked on the entire first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. He was nominated five times for Emmy Awards, including two nominations for TNG (“Conspiracy” and “Coming of Age”), winning for “Conspiracy” along with Michael Westmore and Gerald Quist. Keppler would also be nominated for a Saturn Award for his makeup work on TWOK during 1982. The heritage of Keppler contributions to Trek continues with Werner’s son Rolf John Keppler, whose makeup work can be seen in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek Into Darkness.

It is Keppler’s work – sometimes subtly – that adds to the emotional impact of the film’s most-exciting and saddest moments, from the battles in space to the loss of Peter Preston, to the film’s most-poignant moment, the sacrifice of Spock.

SPECIAL THANKS: Nicholas Meyer for photograph and research permissions, and the University of Iowa Libraries.

Maria Jose and John Tenuto are both sociology professors at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois, specializing in popular culture and subculture studies. The Tenutos have conducted extensive research on the history of Star Trek, and have presented at venues such as Creation Conventions and the St. Louis Science Center. They have written for the official Star Trek Magazine and their extensive collection of Star Trek items has been featured in SFX Magazine. Their theory about the “20-Year Nostalgia Cycle” and research on Star Trek fans has been featured on WGN News, BBC Radio, and in the documentary The Force Among Us. They recently researched all known paperwork from the making of the classic episode "Space Seed" and are excited to be sharing some previously unreported information about Khan's first adventure with fellow fans. Contact the Tenutos at [email protected] or [email protected]

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