Documentary Filmmaker Eleanor Coppola, Wife of Francis Ford Coppola, Passes Away at 87

Documentary Filmmaker Eleanor Coppola, Wife of Francis Ford Coppola, Passes Away at 87

We are sad to report that Eleanor Coppola, acclaimed documentary filmmaker and wife of Francis Ford Coppola, passed away on April 12, 2024, at the age of 87. She died in Rutherford, CA, surrounded by family at their home. No official cause of death has been given as of the time of writing. She is survived by her husband, Francis, as well as their three children, Gian-Carlo, Sofia, and Roman.

Eleanor was the matriarch of the Coppola family, and while she was mostly in the background, she had a profound influence on Francis’ filmmaking and was always there to support him, even in the most complex moments of his career. But, aside from that, she was a documentary filmmaker herself, an artist, and a writer.

She was born Eleanor Jessie Neil on May 4, 1936, in Los Angeles, California. Her father was a newspaper cartoonist who died when she was 10, so she and her brothers were raised by their mother, Delphine Neil (née Lougheed). She later got her degree in applied design from the UCLA and in 1962, she was appointed assistant art director for the pulp horror Dementia 13, which was the directorial debut of the young Francis Coppola.

The two fell in love on set and became a couple, and in 1963, Eleanor discovered she was pregnant. And while she pondered giving the baby up for adoption, Francis dissuaded her from doing it; it was the couple’s first child, son Gian-Carlo, and as it is known, they would later have two other children, Sofia and Roman.

She was a constant presence during her husband’s filmmaking career and, as we have said, she is rightfully considered to have been the true matriarch of the family. She was also a documentary filmmaker herself and was recording the filmmaking process of some of her husband’s most famous films. Her best-known solo work is the documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, which was released in 1991 and shows the complex and often troublesome filming of Apocalypse Now, one of Francis’ best movies, as well as one of the best movies in history. The filming was, as most fans know, notoriously troublesome because of the harsh conditions, issues with Marlon Brando, and other stuff, and Eleanor’s documentary gave us a proper insight into how it all worked. One of her later documentaries is also The Making of ‘Marie Antoinette,’ which chronicles the work on her daughter’s film Marie Antoinette.

She also wrote and directed two feature films herself, Paris Can Wait and Love Is Love Is Love, but she has received more acclaim for her documentary work. She also wrote two successful books in her lifetime. Her death is certainly a piece of sad news, and we’d like to express our condolences to the family.

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