Udo Kier

Shadow of a Vampire

Interviewed by James Mottram

What was the appeal of "Shadow of the Vampire"?

I was fascinated by the story of FW Murnau, one of the most famous directors in Germany, where I come from. When I read that John Malkovich was playing Murnau and Willem Dafoe would be appearing as Max Schreck, I was very interested. It's not a vampire film; it's a black comedy.

How did you research your role?

I've been in over a hundred films so I know what producers are like. I just had to think of other producers I worked with. There was a lot of material on Albin Grau, who produced "Nosferatu". Not many people know this, but he created all the original posters for Murnau's film, these beautiful, expressive posters. He was a very mysterious person. Nobody knows where his money came from. But as an actor, you take this information and make it your own, then go beyond it.

The film seems to be about the process of creation.

That's what Murnau was about. He made the first "Nosferatu". He created the vampire that's in almost every vampire book: the long fingernails, the strange position of the body. He was the first director to create that character in a film. But Murnau made great films; like Sternberg, he was one of the biggest film makers in Germany before he emigrated to America.

Read an interview with the director of "Shadow of the Vampire", E Elias Merhige.