Eleanor Coppola, Award-Winning Filmmaker Who Captured BTS of Husband's Film Apocalypse Now, Passes Away at 87

Eleanor Coppola, the acclaimed filmmaker renowned for her intimate portrayal of the tumultuous production of her husband's film Apocalypse Now, has passed away at the age of 87.

Published on Apr 13, 2024  |  08:20 AM IST |  44.2K
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Eleanor Coppola (Getty Images)

Eleanor Coppola, an Emmy-winning American filmmaker and wife of Francis Ford Coppola, passed away at her home in Rutherford, California, on Friday, April 12. She was 87. The news of her death was confirmed in a statement by the Coppola family to the Associated Press.

Eleanor was most recognized for her documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, which chronicled the taxing 238-day production of her husband’s 1979 film, Apocalypse Now. The Vietnam War feature, and a highly anticipated follow-up to The Godfather: Part II, directed by Francis Coppola, faced several unwelcome circumstances during production, including initial star Harvey Keitel’s replacement with Martin Sheen, the latter then getting hospitalized due to a heart attack, a reworked ending, typhoon wreaking the filming sets, and more.

The raw footage that Eleanor Coppola shot behind the scenes of Apocalypse Now became her aforementioned Emmy Winning documentary. It also bagged eight Oscars nominations and a DGA nomination. 

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse was released in 1991, 12 years after her husband's film’s release. 

Eleanor Coppola's Perspective on Hearts of Darkness and Her Other Notable Works

Eleanor Coppola's Hearts of Darkness (IMDb)

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“The beginning of the film idea for me was certainly documenting Apocalypse Now,” Coppola 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."

Coppola followed up on Hearts of Darkness with her first narrative feature, Paris Can Wait, a romance saga starring Alec Baldwin, Arnauld Viard, and Diane Lane, in 2016, and Love Is Love Is Love, in 2020. 

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Back to Apocalypse Now, Eleanor Coppola also documented the troubled production of the film in her 1995 book Notes in the Making of Apocalypse Now. 

Additionally, she released a memoir, Notes on a Life, in 2008, and also worked as a cinematographer and director on several documentaries detailing her husband’s and children’s various films. 

A Look Back At Eleanor Coppola’s Personal Life

Eleanor Coppola with husband Francis Ford Coppola (Getty Images)

Born Eleanor Neil in Los Angeles on May 4, 1936, she was raised in Huntington Beach before graduating from UCLA with a degree in applied design. 

Eleanor met her husband while working as an art director on the Roger Corman horror production of Dementia 13, which also marked Francis Ford Coppola’s feature directorial debut. 

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The two tied the knot in 1963 and by then Eleanor was already expecting their first child, Gian-Carlo. The couple went on to welcome two more children, Sofia and Roman Coppola, who are both in the filmmaking business. 

Coppola is survived by her husband, Francis, 85, and their children, director Sofia, and writer and producer Roman Coppola. 

Eleanor and Francis Coppola unfortunately lost their eldest son, Gian-Carlo, in 1986 at the age of 22, after he sustained injuries in a speeding boat accident.

FAQ

What was Eleanor Coppola's most famous work?
Eleanor Coppola's most famous work was the documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, which provided an insider's view of the challenges faced during the production of Apocalypse Now.

What other films did Eleanor Coppola direct?
Apart from Hearts of Darkness, Eleanor Coppola directed narrative features such as Paris Can Wait (2016) and Love Is Love Is Love (2020).

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