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Eleanor Coppola, Wife of Francis Ford Coppola, Dead at 87

By Michael Apr 13, 2024
Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Eleanor Coppola, an award-winning filmmaker and the wife of director Francis Ford Coppola, has died. She was 87 years old.

In a statement shared with the Associated Press, the Coppola family announced that she passed away “surrounded by her family” at her home in Rutherford, California, on Friday, April 12. Her cause of death was not revealed.

Born in Los Angeles, California, on May 4, 1936, Eleanor was raised in Orange County before returning to L.A. to study at UCLA, where she met husband Francis, 84, working on the set of his 1963 horror film, Dementia 13, per The Hollywood Reporter.

The pair wed in February that year and share three children together: son Gian-Carlo – who died at age 22 in a boating accident in 1986 – son Roman, 58, and daughter Sofia, 55.

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Though Eleanor always had an interest in film, it wasn’t until she picked up a camera to shoot behind-the-scenes footage of husband Francis’ award-winning movie Apocalypse Now, whose chaotic production ran for more than 230 days, that she truly discovered her passion for the craft.

“I don’t know if [Francis] is just trying to keep me busy or if he wants to avoid the addition of a professional crew,” she wrote in Notes: The Making of Apocalypse Now. “Maybe both.”

The footage captured by Eleanor on the set of her husband’s 1978 war film earned her an Emmy Award in 1992 for Outstanding Individual Achievement – Informational Programming – Directing for Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse.

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“The beginning of the film idea for me was certainly documenting Apocalypse Now,” she told Deadline in 2017. “I had no idea. I’d made some little art films in the early ’70s, but when I got this camera in the Philippines I was just mesmerized, looking through the viewfinder. I really responded to that, so I made different documentaries, because I always loved to shoot.”

In addition to Hearts of Darkness, Eleanor also directed documentaries chronicling the making of daughter Sofia’s The Virgin Suicides in 1999 and Marie Antoinette in 2006, and directed the 2016 rom-com Paris Can Wait. Her last director credit was 2020’s Love Is Love Is Love.

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In October last year, Sofia skipped the New York Film Festival for the screening of her film Priscilla to spend time with her mother.

“I’m so sorry to not be there with you, but I’m with my mother, to whom this film is dedicated,” the writer-director wrote in a statement read by producer Youree Henley at the time.

By Michael

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