Berlin-born Max Schreck began acting in the late 1910s and early 1920s, with his role as Count Orlok in “Nosferatu” being among his first few roles. He once again collaborated with director F. W. Murnau on the 1924 comedy, “The Grand Duke’s Finances.” Outside of this, Schreck mostly played small roles before his death due to heart failure in 1936. Given the mystery surrounding the actor and his knack for playing grotesque characters, some critics and audiences at the time speculated if Schreck was an actual vampire. Of course, Schreck was very much a part of the living, but that didn’t stop the rumor from becoming ingrained into Hollywood legend.
The hearsay reached its peak in 2000 with the release of the film “Shadow of the Vampire.” Starring Willem Dafoe in an Oscar-nominated performance as Schreck, the film depicts a fictionalized account of the production of “Nosferatu.” In it, those working on the film become dubious of Schreck’s over-ambitious performance as Orlok, with some of the crew members even being killed by him as a vampire. The critically acclaimed film, even if clearly not intended to be a straight-up biography, acts as the ultimate love letter to Schreck and the legacy left behind by his iconic character.