Inside Berlin's Kryolan: 8 Tons of Fake Blood, Most of Hollywood's Makeup

The 70-year-old firm turned Halle Berry white for "Cloud Atlas" and helped Taylor Lautner wolf out for "Twilight: New Moon."
Wolfram Langer
Markus Altmann

This story first appeared in the Feb. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

On a small, nondescript screen in Berlin, a few blocks from where the Wall stood, is one of Hollywood's best-kept secrets: German makeup firm Kryolan. It was Kryolan makeup that turned Halle Berry white for Cloud Atlas, helped create Elizabeth Banks' Effie Trinket look for The Hunger Games and put the werewolf into Taylor Lautner for Twilight: New Moon.

Quietly, the company founded by German chemist Arnold Langer in the rubble of 1945's war-ravaged Berlin has become a world leader. By some estimates, Kryolan accounts for two-thirds of global production of professional makeup for film, TV and theater (while there's no official consumer line, its products can be purchased at stores in San Francisco and Chicago).

Makeup for Kryolan means anything put on or over an actor's face or body, from foundation and lipstick to fake blood, teeth and body parts -- all created on site in Berlin. Walking through the building, one might pass a man mixing paste for foundation until it looks like whipped gelato, another pouring neon paint in the unmistakable hue of Blue Man Group and a woman ladling crimson blood into a vast bucket.

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"We sell around seven to eight tons of blood a year. We do oozing, squirting, congealing and clotted -- whatever," says Wolfram Langer, son of Arnold and Kryolan's managing director. A bit too enthusiastically he motions to a row of liquid-filled jars that look like they came from a high school biology class taught by Hannibal Lecter. "Vomit, pus, nasal discharge -- we've got it all!"

Kryolan's Hollywood breakthrough came in 1968 with the original Planet of the Apes. The German firm supplied the material for John Chambers' groundbreaking silicon masks, for which the makeup artist won an honorary Academy Award.

As one of only a handful of makeup manufacturers worldwide that still does research and development, Kryolan remains on the cutting edge. For example, the company was the first to design the especially finely ground makeup needed for HDTV, using micronisation technology previously applied only in the pharmaceutical industry.

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"It's what sets us apart: We develop ourselves, and we produce ourselves," says Langer. "This means we can react to what the industry wants -- we listen to makeup artists. It's not like a typical cosmetics company that makes a product and then goes out and markets it. They tell us what they need, and we respond."

Adds veteran Hollywood makeup artist Fiona Stiles: "They're great for special effects makeup, especially pigments. There aren't a lot of lines that carry really bright pigments because that's not something consumers use."

Because he works directly with makeup artists and not producers or studios, Kryolan chief chemist Yousef Atapour says he usually only finds out what films his compounds are for by accident, when he sees the results onscreen. So does it bother him that the makeup work on Cloud Atlas -- with all of its Kryolan-made products -- was snubbed by the Oscars? "No. Why?" he says, smiling. "We aren't doing this to win awards. Our customers are the professionals: the makeup artists, the actors, the models. As long as the industry keeps coming back to us, someone else can win the Oscar."