Eleanor Coppola, ‘Hearts of Darkness’ Documentarian and Francis Ford Coppola’s Longtime Wife, Dead at 87

Eleanor Coppola, the longtime wife of Francis Ford Coppola, mother of Sofia and Roman Coppola, and documentary filmmaker who became a key player in the New Hollywood movement, has died at the age of 87. The news was confirmed by the Associated Press, which received a statement from the family. She died Friday April 12 at home in Rutherford, California.

Born in Los Angeles in 1936, Coppola studied design at UCLA and began her career working in the art department on film sets. While serving as assistant art director on “Dementia 13,” she met Francis Ford Coppola, who was making his directorial debut on the independent film. The two were married in 1963, beginning a partnership in life and filmmaking that spanned the next six decades.

An established documentary filmmaker in her own right, Coppola is best known for chronicling the often tumultuous behind-the-scenes drama on film sets. She accompanied her husband to the Philippines during the famously grueling “Apocalypse Now” shoot, which was plagued by dangerous weather, health problems, and other logistical and creative issues that caused the film to go significantly over budget and delay its release date by two years. She took meticulous notes about the shoot, which she compiled into the book “Notes on the Making of Apocalypse Now” and used to spearhead the documentary “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse.” That film, which hit theaters in 1991, is widely regarded as one of the best documentaries ever made about the filmmaking process.

Throughout her life, she continued to play an active role in the Coppola family’s film and winemaking endeavors. She regularly served as a creative consigliere on films directed by Francis and their daughter Sofia, all of which were produced through the family’s American Zoetrope production company. She also directed the filmmaking documentaries “Francis Ford Coppola Directs ‘John Grisham’s The Rainmaker’” and “The Making of ‘Marie Antoinette.’”

In 2016, at the age of 80, she wrote and directed her first narrative feature, “Paris Can Wait.” The European road trip comedy was well received by critics, and she followed it up by directing her sophomore feature “Love Is Love Is Love” in 2020.

Coppola is survived by her husband Francis and her daughter Sofia and son Roman.

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