Filmmaking matriarch Eleanor Coppola dies at 87.

Eleanor Coppola, who recorded her husband Francis Ford Coppola's films, including “Apocalypse Now,” and nurtured a family of filmmakers, died. She was 87. Her family said Coppola died Friday at home in Rutherford, California, surrounded by family. A cause of death was unknown.  

Eleanor, from Orange County, California, met Francis as an assistant art director on his directorial debut, the Roger Corman-produced 1963 horror picture “Dementia 13.” She studied design at UCLA. Eleanor fell pregnant after months of courting, and they married in Las Vegas in February 1963. Their firstborn, Gian-Carlo, and their later children, Roman (born 1965) and Sofia (born 1971), quickly became regulars in their father's films. After acting in their father's films and growing up on sets, all went into film.  

“I don’t know what the family has given except I hope they’ve set an example of a family encouraging each other in their creative process whatever it may be,” Eleanor told The Associated Press in 2017. Everyone in our family follows the family business. Though we didn't ask or expect it, they did. Sofia answered, ‘The nut does not fall far from the tree.’”  

A 1986 boating accident killed 22-year-old Gian-Carlo, who had started second-unit photography and appeared in many of his father's films. He died aboard a boat piloted by Griffin O'Neal, son of negligent Ryan O'Neal. Roman has directed multiple films and works alongside Wes Anderson. President of his father's San Francisco film firm, American Zoetrope. Sofia, the writer-director of “Lost in Translation” and the 2023 film “Priscilla,” became a leading filmmaker. Sofia dedicated her film to her mother.  

The Coppola children followed their father and mother into the family business. Since 1979's "Apocalypse Now," Eleanor documented Francis' films' behind-the-scenes. The Philippines-set “Apocalypse Now” filming lasted 238 days. Typhoons wrecked sets. Mr. Sheen suffered a heart attack. Construction worker died.  

Eleanor captured much of the pandemonium in 1991's “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse,” a famous making-of film about filmmaking. “I was just trying to keep myself occupied with something to do because we were out there for so long,” Eleanor told CNN in 1991. “They wanted five minutes for a TV promotional or something, and I thought I could get five minutes of film, but it went to 15 minutes.”

Eleanor explained, “I just kept shooting but I had no idea... the evolution of myself that I saw with my camera.” She shot 60 hours of footage. The encounter was life-changing and surprising for both of us.  

Eleanor released “Notes: On the Making of ‘Apocalypse Now’” in 1979. Although the film concentrated on the film set commotion, the book detailed Eleanor's inner turmoil, particularly the hardships of being married to a larger-than-life personality. A “woman isolated from my friends, my affairs and my projects” during their year in Manilla, she wrote. She openly discusses Francis' adulterous affair.  

Eleanor stated, “There is part of me that has been waiting for Francis to leave me, or die, so I can get my life the way I want it. “I wonder if I have the guts to get it to my liking with him.” They lived together throughout her life. Eleanor kept finding creative outlets. She filmed more of her husband's films, Roman's “CQ” and Sofia's “Marie Antoinette.” Her 2008 memoir was “Notes on a Life.”  

Eleanor makes her narrative debut in Diane Lane's 2016 romantic comedy "Paris Can Wait" at 80. She released “Love Is Love Is Love” in 2020. Eleanor initially planned to create “Paris Can Wait” script. At breakfast, my spouse suggested, ‘Well you should direct it.’ Eleanor told The AP, "I was shocked." But I responded, ‘Well, I never wrote a script and I've never directed, why not?’ I was asking ‘why not’ to everything.” Eleanor died as Francis prepared “Metropolis,” a long-planned, self-financed epic, to premiere at Cannes next month.

Her husband, son Roman and his wife, Jen, their children Pascale, Marcello, and Alessandro; daughter Sofia and her husband, Thomas, Romy and Cosima; granddaughter Gia and her husband, Honor, and Beaumont; and brother William Neil and his wife, Lisa survive her.  

The family reported Eleanor's third memoir completion. She wrote in the manuscript: “I appreciate how my unexpected life has stretched and pulled me in so many extraordinary ways and taken me in a multitude of directions beyond my wildest imaginings.”  

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