Eleanor Coppola Dead at 87

She documented the making of some of her husband's famous films
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 13, 2024 6:00 AM CDT
Eleanor Coppola Dead at 87
This undated portrait released by the Coppola family shows Eleanor "Ellie" Jessie Coppola.   (Chad Keig/Courtesy of the Coppola family via AP)

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 who raised a family of filmmakers, has died, the AP reports. She was 87. Coppola died Friday surrounded by family at home in Rutherford, California, her family announced in a statement. No cause of death was given. Eleanor, who grew up in Orange County, California, met Francis while 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 were wed in Las Vegas in February 1963.

Their first-born, Gian-Carlo, quickly became a regular presence in his father's films, as did their subsequent children, Roman (born in 1965) and Sofia (born in 1971). After acting in their father's films and growing up on sets, all would go into the movies. "I don't know what the family has given except I hope they've set an example of a family encouraging each other in their creative process whatever it may be," Eleanor told the Associated Press in 2017. "It happens in our family that everyone chose to sort of follow in the family business. We weren't asking them to or expecting them to, but they did. At one point Sofia said, 'The nut does not fall far from the tree.'"

In joining the family business, the Coppola children weren't just following in their father's footsteps but their mother's, too. Beginning on 1979's Apocalypse Now, Eleanor frequently documented the behind-the-scenes life of Francis' films. The Philippines-set shoot lasted 238 days. A typhoon destroyed sets. Martin Sheen had a heart attack. A member of the construction crew died. Eleanor documented much of the chaos in what would become one of the most famous making-of films about moviemaking, 1991's Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse. Eleanor also published Notes: On the Making of Apocalypse Now in 1979. (More on her life, and her own continued creative pursuits, here.)

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