Breaking! Hollywood Matriarch Eleanor Coppola Dead at 87 – End of an Era for Coppola Dynasty!

Eleanor Coppola, recognized for her behind-the-scenes work on some of her husband Francis Ford Coppola’s legendary movies, such as the notoriously difficult production of “Apocalypse Now,” and mother to a brood of filmmakers, has passed away. She was 87 years old.

The Coppola family revealed in a statement that Eleanor passed away peacefully at her residence in Rutherford, California, last Friday.

Born and bred in Orange County, Eleanor met Francis while serving as an assistant art director on his first directorial venture, the horror film “Dementia 13,” produced by Roger Corman in 1963. (Eleanor was a UCLA design graduate.) Shortly after they began dating, Eleanor became pregnant and the two tied the knot in Las Vegas in February 1963.

Their eldest child, Gian-Carlo, was a constant fixture in his father’s films, as were their other children, Roman (born in 1965) and Sofia (born in 1971). All three children, having acted in their father’s films and grown up on film sets, would later pursue careers in filmmaking.

In a 2017 interview with the Associated Press, Eleanor said, “I can only hope that our family has been a role model in encouraging each other in their creative endeavors, whatever they may be. It just so happened that everyone in our family chose to follow in the family business. It wasn’t something we pushed them towards or anticipated, but it happened. Sofia once said, ‘The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.’”

Gian-Carlo, often seen in the backdrop of his father’s films and had begun working as a second-unit photographer, tragically died at the age of 22 in a boating accident in 1986. The accident occurred while he was a passenger in a boat operated by Griffin O’Neal, son of Ryan O’Neal, who was later found guilty of negligence.

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Roman has directed several films of his own and frequently collaborates with Wes Anderson. Presently, he is the president of his father’s film company, American Zoetrope, based in San Francisco.

Sofia, on the other hand, has emerged as one of the most celebrated filmmakers of her era, with critically acclaimed films like “Lost in Translation” and the upcoming 2023 release “Priscilla” to her name. Sofia has dedicated this film to her mother.

In choosing to join the family business, the Coppola children weren’t just following their father, but their mother as well. Starting from the 1979 film “Apocalypse Now,” Eleanor often chronicled the behind-the-scenes goings-on of Francis’ films. The filming of “Apocalypse Now” in the Philippines lasted a whopping 238 days, during which a typhoon destroyed sets, actor Martin Sheen had a heart attack, and a construction crew member died.

Eleanor captured much of the chaos in her famous documentary about filmmaking, the 1991 film “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse.”

Speaking to CNN in 1991, Eleanor said, “I was simply trying to keep myself busy during our prolonged stay there.” Originally, they wanted a five-minute promotional video for TV, but Eleanor ended up shooting 15 minutes of footage.

“I kept on filming, but I had no idea about the transformation I was capturing with my camera,” Eleanor continued, who ended up with 60 hours of footage. “It was an eye-opener and a life-altering experience for both of us.”

In addition to the documentary, Eleanor also wrote “Notes: On the Making of ‘Apocalypse Now’” in 1979. While the documentary focused on the tumultuous film set, the book delved into Eleanor’s personal struggles, including the challenges of being married to a larger-than-life personality. She wrote about feeling “isolated from my friends, my affairs, and my projects” during their time in Manila and openly discussed Francis’ extramarital affair.

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Eleanor wrote, “There’s a part of me that has been waiting for Francis to either leave me or pass away so that I can live my life the way I want to. I wonder if I have the courage to lead the life I want with him in it.”

Despite everything, they remained together for the rest of her life. Eleanor continued to explore her creative abilities, documenting several more of her husband’s films, as well as Roman’s “CQ” and Sofia’s “Marie Antoinette.” She penned a memoir titled “Notes on a Life” in 2008.

At the age of 81, in 2016, Eleanor made her debut as a narrative film director with “Paris Can Wait,” a romantic comedy featuring Diane Lane. She followed this with “Love Is Love Is Love” in 2020. Initially, Eleanor had only intended to write the screenplay for “Paris Can Wait.”

Recalling the incident, Eleanor told AP, “My husband casually suggested over breakfast one morning that I should direct the film. I was taken aback but thought, ‘Well, I’d never written a script before and I’d never directed, so why not?’ I was essentially saying ‘why not’ to everything.”

Coyle and Bahr are film writers for the Associated Press.

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