HomeTop StoriesEleanor Coppola, wife of director Francis Ford Coppola, dies at the age...

Eleanor Coppola, wife of director Francis Ford Coppola, dies at the age of 87

Eleanor Coppola, who documented the making of some of her husband Francis Ford Coppola’s iconic films, including the infamously tortured production of “Apocalypse Now,” and raised a family of filmmakers, has died. She was 87.

Coppola died Friday surrounded by family at her home in Rutherford, California, her family said in a statement. Representatives of the family also confirmed the death in an email to CBS News.

No cause of death was given.

Francis Ford Coppola and his wife Eleanor Coppola
Film director Francis Ford Coppola and his wife Eleanor Coppola attend the 94th annual Oscars at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California on March 27, 2022.

ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

Eleanor, who grew up in Orange County, California, met Francis while he was working as an assistant art director on his directorial debut, the Roger Corman-produced 1963 horror film “Dementia 13.” She had studied design at UCLA. Within months of dating, Eleanor became pregnant, and the couple married in Las Vegas in February 1963.

Their firstborn, Gian-Carlo, quickly became a regular presence in his father’s films, as did their subsequent children, Roman (born 1965) and Sofia (born 1971). After starring in their father’s films and growing up on the sets, they all went into film.

“I don’t know what the family has given, except that I hope they have been an example of a family that encourages each other in their creative process, whatever it may be,” Eleanor told The Associated Press in 2017. “It happens in our family that everyone in the family business wanted to follow. We didn’t ask or expect them to, but they did. At one point Sofia said, ‘The nut doesn’t fall far from the tree.'”

Gian-Carlo, who appeared in the background of many of his father’s films and had begun doing second-unit photography, died at the age of 22 in a boating accident in 1986. He was killed while riding in a boat piloted by Griffin O ‘Neal, son of Ryan O’Neal, who was found guilty of negligence.

Roman has directed several of his own films and regularly collaborates with Wes Anderson. He is president of his father’s San Francisco-based film company, American Zoetrope.

Sofia became one of the most acclaimed filmmakers of her generation as the writer-director of films such as ‘Lost in Translation’ and the 2023 release ‘Priscilla’, which Sofia dedicated to her mother.

By joining the family business, the Coppola children followed not only in their father’s footsteps, but also in their mother’s. From 1979’s ‘Apocalypse Now’ onwards, Eleanor regularly documented the life behind the scenes of Francis’ films. Filming of “Apocalypse Now” in the Philippines lasted 238 days. A typhoon destroyed sets. Martin Sheen had a heart attack. A member of the construction crew was killed.

Eleanor documented much of the chaos in what would become one of the most famous making-of films on filmmaking, 1991’s “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse.”

“I was just trying to keep myself busy with something to do because we were there so long,” Eleanor told CNN in 1991. “They wanted five minutes for a TV promo or something and I figured I’d be able to do that sooner or later. Got five minutes of film, and then it went up to 15 minutes.”

“I kept taking pictures, but I had no idea… of the evolution of myself that I was seeing with my camera,” continued Eleanor, who ended up capturing 60 hours of footage. “So it was a surprise for both of us and a life-changing experience.”

Eleanor also published ‘Notes: On the Making of ‘Apocalypse Now” in 1979. While the film focused on the tumult on the film set, the book charted some of Eleanor’s inner turmoil, including the challenges of marrying a larger-than-life man. figure. She wrote that during their year in Manila, she was a “woman isolated from my friends, my business, and my projects.” She also candidly discusses Francis having an extramarital affair.

“There is a part of me that has been waiting for Francis to leave me or die so I can have my life the way I want it,” Eleanor wrote. “I wonder if I have the guts to get it the way I want it, with him in it.”

However, they stayed together all her life. And Eleanor continued to find creative outlets for herself. She documented several more of her husband’s films, as well as Roman’s ‘CQ’ and Sofia’s ‘Marie Antoinette’. She wrote a memoir, “Notes on a Life,” in 2008.

In 2016, at the age of 80, Eleanor made her narrative debut in “Paris Can Wait,” a romantic comedy starring Diane Lane. She followed that up with “Love Is Love Is Love” in 2020. Eleanor initially only planned to write the screenplay for “Paris Can Wait.”

“One morning at the breakfast table my husband said, ‘Well, you should direct it.’ I was completely shocked,” Eleanor told The AP. “But I said, ‘Well, I’ve never written a script before and I’ve never directed before, why not?’ I basically said ‘why not’ to everything.”

Eleanor died just as Francis was preparing a long-planned, self-financed epic, “Metropolis,” which will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival next month.

She is survived by her husband; her son Roman and his wife Jen, their children Pascale, Marcello and Alessandro; her daughter Sofia and her husband Thomas, their children Romy and Cosima; her granddaughter Gia and her husband Honor, and their child Beaumont; and by her brother William Neil and his wife Lisa.

Eleanor recently completed her third memoir, the family said. In the manuscript she wrote:

“I appreciate how my unexpected life has stretched and pulled me in so many extraordinary ways and taken me in a multitude of directions beyond my wildest imagination.”

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