Klaus Kinski had to spend approximately four hours per day in make-up. Fresh latex ear pieces had to be poured for each day of shooting because they were destroyed at removal. Kinski, notorious for his violent daily temper-tantrums, had a very good relationship to Japanese make-up artist Reiko Kruk and was exceedingly patient and well-behaved during make-up.
As this movie was made long after the copyright to Bram Stoker's Dracula had expired, Werner Herzog decided to restore the original names of the characters, while still following the movie blueprint laid out by F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu (1922).
Procuring rats for the film proved difficult, though the production eventually procured a large quantity from a scientific research facility. When shipped to Holland for filming, a customs inspector reportedly fainted upon opening their crate and discovering its contents. In addition to the notorious dye job the rats had to endure, each had to undergo spaying or neutering to control their breeding. Animal rights activists have also alleged that the rats were underfed and actually began to eat one another during production.
At the request of distributor 20th Century Fox, Herzog produced two versions of the film simultaneously, to appeal to English-speaking audiences. Scenes with dialogue were filmed twice, in German and in English, meaning that the actor's own voices (as opposed to dubbed dialogue by voice actors) could be included in the English version of the film. Herzog himself said in 2014 that the German version was more "authentic."
Werner Herzog cast Roland Topor as Renfield after seeing him in a French TV show. He had been greatly impressed with the crazy, utterly desperate laugh with which Topor had concluded his every statement on that show. Reprising the laugh in Nosferatu, it is much more pronounced in the English version of the film than the German.
Unlike most versions of the Dracula story, in which Dracula himself masquerades as a coach driver and takes Harker to his castle, in this version Dracula appears to employ an actual carriage driver - who is clearly seen as a different person from Dracula - driving the carriage to the entrance of Dracula's estate.
The film implies on several occasions that Dracula's castle exists in type of shadow dream world and it is in this reality which Harker finds himself at the beginning of the film. This is implied by statements from the gypsies that Dracula's castle is in fact merely a crumbling ruin with these ruins seen while the sun is setting, although Harker finds himself in a fully intact castle. Harker himself even notes that the castle "doesn't seem real" and is haunted by the image of a violin playing boy who is suggested to be either a phantom or ghost.