Eleanor Coppola, ‘Hearts of Darkness’ Director, Dies at 87

She and Francis Ford Coppola wed in 1963; writer-director Sofia Coppola is one of their three children

Eleanor Coppola at an event in 2021
Eleanor Coppola at an event in 2021 (CREDIT: Getty Images)

Eleanor Coppola, a documentarian who directed “Hearts of Darkness,” the making-of film about husband Francis Ford Coppola’s troubled Vietnam war epic “Apocalypse Now,” has died at age 87, her family told the Associated Press on Friday.

She died surrounded by her family at her home in Rutherford, Calif., in Napa Valley, according to the statement. No cause of death was given.

Eleanor first met Francis in 1963 while working as an assistant art director on his directorial debut, the horror film “Dementia 13,” which was produced by Roger Corman.

The two wed in Las Vegas in February of that year and shortly after welcomed oldest son Gian-Carlo. Son Roman was born in 1965 and Sofia, who would go on to win an Oscar for the “Lost in Translation” screenplay, was born in 1971.

Eleanor documented the behind-the-scenes happenings during the legendary 238-day production of “Apocalypse Now” in the Philippines, including lead actor Martin Sheen’s heart attack and a typhoon destroying most of the sets.

The collected footage — 60 hours’ worth — became “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse,” which was released in 1991 and became one of the most famous making-of documentaries ever made. It followed her book, “Notes: On the Making of ‘Apocalypse Now,’” which was published in 1979.

She went on to document more Coppola family films, including Roman’s 2001 sci-fi fantasy “CQ” and Sofia’s 2006 biopic “Marie Antoinette.” She also directed the 2016 feature film “Paris Can Wait,” starring Diane Lane and published a memoir in 2008 titled, “Notes on a Life.” According to her family, Eleanor finished a third memoir before her death.

Sofia dedicated her most recent film, “Priscilla,” about Priscilla Presley, to her mother. In October, she skipped the film’s press conference at the NYFF to be with Eleanor, writing in her note, “I am with my mother, to whom this film is dedicated.”

Francis’ long awaited epic “Metropolis” is set to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival next month.

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

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