Eleanor Coppola, Noted Filmmaker and Spouse of Francis Ford Coppola, Passes Away at Age 87

Eleanor Coppola, acclaimed documentarian, filmmaker, and wife of Academy Award-winning director Francis Ford Coppola, has passed away at the age of 87. The news of her death was confirmed by the Coppola family in a statement released to The Associated Press. Eleanor died on Friday at her home in Rutherford, California, surrounded by her loved ones, though the cause of her passing was not disclosed.

Eleanor’s rise to fame came after she documented the tumultuous production of her husband’s iconic 1979 war film, “Apocalypse Now.” Her award-winning documentary, “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse,” showcased the challenges and obstacles faced by Francis during the film’s lengthy and troubled shoot, which lasted 238 days. From lead actor Martin Sheen’s heart attack to a devastating typhoon in the Philippines that destroyed most of the film’s sets, Eleanor captured it all on film. Tragically, a crew member lost their life during production.

Reflecting on her role in the documentary, Eleanor shared in a 1991 interview with CNN that she had not anticipated the extent of the footage she would capture, emphasizing that she was simply trying to stay occupied during the arduous production process. In the end, Eleanor amassed over 60 hours of footage, laying the foundation for a documentary that would later earn her two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Directing and Picture Editing.

Born in Los Angeles and an alumna of UCLA, Eleanor’s journey with Francis began on the set of his directorial debut, “Dementia 13.” The couple welcomed their first son, Gian-Carlo Coppola, shortly after meeting, followed by Roman in 1965 and Sofia in 1971. Tragedy struck the family in 1986 when Gian-Carlo passed away in a boating accident at the age of 22.

Despite a hiatus from directing following her documentary in 1991, Eleanor returned to the director’s chair at the urging of Francis for her feature film debut, “Paris Can Wait,” in 2016 at the age of 80. She went on to direct “Love Is Love Is Love” and published two memoirs, “Notes: On the Making of ‘Apocalypse Now'” in 1979 and “Notes on a Life” in 2008, with a third memoir manuscript recently completed.

Eleanor’s influence extended to her children, Roman and Sofia, who both pursued careers in filmmaking. Sofia, in particular, achieved critical acclaim with three Academy Award nominations and a win for Best Original Screenplay for her 2003 film “Lost in Translation.” Eleanor expressed immense pride in witnessing her daughter’s success, noting the passing down of talent and skill from parent to child.

Eleanor’s legacy as a filmmaker, documentarian, and matriarch of the Coppola family will be remembered for her contributions to the world of cinema and the lasting impact she made on those around her. She leaves behind a rich body of work and a family of talented storytellers who continue to honor her memory through their own creative endeavors.