In 1922, German director F.W. Murnau made a movie called Nosferatu.
He was actually trying to make Dracula, but the widow of Dracula author Bram Stoker refused him the rights. So Murnau changed the names and locations, and basically made his Dracula film, with a different character, Count Orlok as the immortal creature.
That's a definite fact that's revealed in Shadow of the Vampire.
How much else of the movie is true is questionable indeed.
The film works with premise that Max Schrek, the actor portraying Count Orlok, was an actual vampire.
Well, who am I to question them, right?
John Malkovich plays F W Murnau as a man possessed; the very essence of insane genius. He will stop at nothing to make his movie. As usual Malkovich is very good and very disturbing in his role.
Shadow of the Vampire also features an actress I've never heard of, Catherine McCormack, Eddie Izzard, a very good Cary Elwes, and a surprisingly normal Udo Kier.
But this movie belongs to Willem Dafoe. As the vampire cum actor, he steals every scene, and he is fucking creepy! He plays his character slightly sympathetically, but mostly grotesquely repellent. With his creepy smile and odd deranged look in his eyes, Dafoe becomes one of the most memorable vampires in cinema history. He's been getting Oscar buzz for this film, and while I'm pretty sure he wouldn't actually win, he deserves all the accolades.
As a vampire freak, I had to see this movie. It was just last month I had to see another big screen vampire movie, Dracula 2000. But that was a cheesy flick. Shadow of the Vampire was written by Steven Katz, directed by E Elias Merhige, and among the producers is Nicolas Cage. It has a very sleek style in which the film goes from a subtle color "present time"look to a grainy black and white look reflecting what the actual 1922 movie looked like. I enjoyed the movie and especially the acting, but I think it got carried away with itself, and ended rather abruptly.
Still it was worth seeing just for Dafoe's performance.