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The film opens in 1923 and we are informed that the famous German director, FW Mernau (John Malkovich) has failed to obtain the rights to Bram Stoker's book, Dracula from Stoker's widow. Malkovich decides to film it anyway by changing the names of the characters and of the book. The title of the film is going to be called NOSFERATU and Dracula will be called Count Orlock.

We then see Malkovich shooting a scene in the studio. He informs his actors and crew that this is the last studio scene. Everything else will be on location. They will be leaving for Czechoslovakia . He also tells them about the actor who will play Count Orlock. The actors name is Max Schreck (Willem Dafoe). Malkovich informs them that Schreck is a method actor and for the entire shoot will be in costume. Also, because vampires cannot come out in the daylight, all of Schreck's scenes will be filmed at night.

The next day they leave by train and arrive without incident. The first day they do some shots around the town and get ready for the first night shot with Schreck. The night shot consists of a male actor approaching the decayed castle in which Orlock lives. Orlock greets him and asks him to enter the castle. The appearance of Orlock is so grotesque that he frightens even the actor. After the scene is finished, the cameraman follows Orlock back into the dark entrance to the castle. When they get ready to leave for the hotel, they find the cameraman weak and ill, in the darkened castle entrance.

When they get back to the hotel the landlady looks at the ill cameraman and says… "NOSFERATU" Later that same evening, we see just the hand of someone carrying a caged rat and giving it to Schreck.

The next evenings shoot is a famous scene from the movie where a male actor cuts his finger while having dinner with the Count. The Count is supposed to see the blood on the actor's finger and suck it. However, when they're filming it, they can't get Schreck to stop sucking. The lights go out and when they come back on, they find Schreck biting the neck of the cameraman. The cameraman is now so weak that he has to be taken back to Germany and is replaced by a new one.

Malcovich is going to take the cameraman back to Germany but before he leaves, he has a talk with Schreck. He brings Schreck a bottle of blood because it turns out that Schreck is REALLY a vampire. Malcovich is very upset because he and Schreck had made a deal that none of the film crew would be hurt. The deal was that Schreck would take directions and not injure the crew until the end of the film when he would be allowed to have the leading lady.

Schreck is upset because hundreds of years ago he drank blood from golden goblet and had many servants to wait on him. He misses that and is beginning to realize that because he's so important to the film, he can force Malcovich to wait on him.

One night outside the castle Schreck approached the new cameraman and the producer explaining how sad it is to be as lonely as the character in Bram Stoker's book. While he is talking to them, he grabs a bat out of the air and sucks its blood.

The last scenes of the movie are to be filmed on an island and Schreck informs Malkovich that he won't sail there. This angers Malkcovich because many of the scenes were to be filmed on the boat going to the island. Schreck says he just will not ride in the boat and expects to be flown there instead. Malkovich agrees and has a replica of the boat built at the castle. While Malkovich is gone taking the cameraman back to Germany, Schreck attacks and kills the screenwriter. Malkovich had more or less said that would be okay.

The final scenes are ready to be filmed and Schreck is on the island with the rest of the actors. For the first time, the female lead has arrived. In the hotel, where they're staying, the producer and cameraman find Malkovich in an Opium induced stupor. Malkovich tells them that Schreck is really a vampire.

The producer and cameraman try to think up a way to kill Schreck. The place where they're filming is a windowless room but has a heavy metal door that is raised by hand-cranking a chain. When the door is raised, sunlight will flood the room.

The final scene has the actress in bed with a wooden stake. She is to drive it into Count Orlock's heart when he approaches. Unfortunately, there happens to be a mirror in the bed and when Orlock approaches, the actress does not see his reflection and realizes that he really is a vampire. She goes into hysterics and Malkovich has her drugged so he can complete the film.

The scene is shot as Orlock really bites the actress' neck, sucks some blood but does not kill her. The producer and cameraman have had enough. They go to raise the door to let the sunlight in but Orlock has outsmarted them. He has cut the chain. The producer pulls out a gun and shoots Orlock several times. Orlock walks over and breaks the neck of the producer. The cameraman also attacks and Orlock strangles him. Orlock says he's had enough and goes back to finish his job on the actress. All the time, Malkovich is filming this.

We now hear voices at the gate that was to be raised. People outside have heard the shots and are worried. They raise the gate, sunlight floods in and Orlock evaporates.

Malkovich is still behind the camera filming, demanding that someone get the clapboard giving him an end shot. He looks crazed but has finished his masterpiece


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John Malkovich is the only one that knows that Dafoe (Schreck) is a real vampire.
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