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I feed like an old man pees - sometimes all at once, sometimes drop by drop.
~ Max Schreck describing his decline.

Max Schreck is the main antagonist of the 2000 metafiction horror film Shadow of the Vampire.

He is a fictional incarnation of the actor with the same name, mostly known for his role as Count Orlok in Nosferatu. However, in the film's universe, Shreck is actually a real vampire thanks to a deal made with the Nosferatu director F.W. Munraw, who promises to surrender Greta to Shreck in exchange of creating the most realistic vampire film of all time.

He was portrayed by Willem Dafoe, who also played Raven Shaddock in Streets of Fire, Eric Masters in To Live and Die in L.A., John Geiger in Speed 2: Cruise Control, the Green Goblin in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy and Spider-Man: No Way Home, Armando Barillo in Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Nikolai Diavolo in James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing, George Deckert in xXx: State of the Union, Lord Cob in Tales from Earthsea, Rat in Fantastic Mr. Fox, J.G. Jopling in The Grand Budapest Hotel, Jack Lassen in The Simpsons, Ryuk in Netflix's Death Note, Thomas Wake in The Lighthouse and Clement Hoately in Nightmare Alley.


Hired for Making the Film

Max Schreck, whom stated to be an obscure German theater performer, hired by F.W. Munraw as one of the main casts for Nosferatu: eine Symphonie des Grauens as Count Orlok. To involve himself fully in his role, Schreck will only appear among the cast and crew in makeup, and will never break character.

Suspicion Among the Filmmakers

In the early days of the filming however, the filmmakers began to suspicious on him because the cameraman, Wolfgang Muller, falls into a strange, hypnotic state while Gustav discovers a bottle of blood smuggled amongst the team's food supplies, and Murnau delivers a caged ferret in the middle of the night.

One night, Murnau rushes his team up to an old Slovak castle for the first scene with the vampire. Schreck appears for the first time, and his appearance and behavior impress and disturb them. The film's producer, Albin Grau, suspects that Schreck is not a German theater actor, and is confused when Murnau tells him that he found Schreck in the castle. Soon after the completion of the scene, Wolf is found collapsed in a dark tunnel. Upon returning to the inn, the landlady appears frightened by his pale, weak appearance, and mutters "Nosferatu" while clutching at a rosary.

Whilst filming a dinner scene between Gustav and Count Orlok, Murnau startles Gustav, making him cut his finger. Schreck reacts wildly at the sight of the blood, and tries drinking from Gustav's wound. The generator powering the lights fails and when the lights return, Schreck has pinned Wolf to the floor, apparently draining his blood. Albin orders filming ended for the night, and the crew rushes from the castle, leaving Schreck behind. Schreck examines the camera equipment after they left, fascinated by footage of a sunrise.

True Nature Revealed

It's ultimately revealed that Schreck is indeed a vampire, and Murnau has struck a deal in order to create the most realistic vampire film possible. Murnau has promised him Greta as a reward, but Schreck remains a difficult star. With Wolf near death, Murnau is forced to bring in another cinematographer, Fritz Arno Wagner. During Murnau's absence, Schreck approaches Albin and the screenwriter, Henrik Galeen. They invite him to join them, and question Schreck, believing he is still in character. Schreck points out Dracula's loneliness, and the sadness of Dracula trying to remember how to perform the everyday activities. When they ask how he became a vampire, Schreck says it was a woman. (The Original Script Reveals that it was His Wife who was A Child Bride who died in Childbirth. He would only ever see her at Night as she was Slowly Turning Him into a vampire. She Eventually left him and  over the Centuries Schreck has forgotten what she even looked like.) A bat flies by and Schreck catches it, sucking its blood. The others are impressed by what they assume is talented acting.


Max Schreck moments before his death.

The production moves to Heligoland to film the final scenes, and Murnau admits Schreck's true nature to Albin and Fritz. The two realise they are trapped, leaving no choice but to complete the film and give Greta to the vampire if they wish to survive. Greta becomes hysterical after noticing Schreck casts no reflection. Murnau, Albin and Fritz drug her, and film the scene as Schreck feeds on Greta, killing her, but the laudanum in her blood puts Schreck to sleep. At dawn, the remaining three attempt to open a door and let in sunlight to destroy Schreck. Schreck previously cut the chain, having learned of their trickery. Schreck kills Fritz and Albin while Murnau continues filming. Henrik and the crew arrive in time to lift the door and flood the set with sunlight, destroying Schreck while Murnau films his death.