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).
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.
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.
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.