Eleanor Coppola obituary


In March 1976, Eleanor Coppola arrived within the Philippines, her three younger youngsters in tow, to movie behind-the-scenes footage on the set of her husband Francis Ford Coppola’s new film Apocalypse Now, which transposed the plot of Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novella Coronary heart of Darkness to late-Nineteen Sixties Vietnam.

Nobody might have identified then that manufacturing on this struggle epic would stretch on for greater than a yr, delayed by catastrophic climate, medical emergencies, navy battle, an incomplete script and plain previous artistic variations, making it one of the infamously turbulent shoots in cinema historical past. Because it rumbled on, newspaper headlines plaintively requested: “Apocalypse When?”

Principal images added as much as a staggering 238 days in complete. Eleanor, who has died aged 87, was there for each one among them. In addition to documenting the chaos because it unfolded, she secretly recorded conversations with Francis for the needs of her diary.

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Eleanor and Francis Ford Coppola in 1991. {Photograph}: Chris Martinez/AP

He could be heard confiding gravely: “The movie is not going to be good … This movie is a $20m catastrophe. Why gained’t anybody imagine me? I’m pondering of capturing myself … That is one disaster I can’t pull myself out of.” He nicknamed the challenge “The Idiodyssey”.

The fabric Eleanor gathered – amounting to 60 hours of movie and 40 hours of audio – was put into storage after squabbles over the viewpoint that her movie (initially shot for promotional functions) ought to take. Fax Bahr and George Hickenlooper’s documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991) later drew closely on her extraordinary footage and tape recordings. Highlights included Francis frantically typing new scenes moments earlier than capturing; arguing with Dennis Hopper, who had not discovered his traces; and conferring at size with Marlon Brando, who arrived on set massively chubby, not having learn Coronary heart of Darkness and seemingly intent on dragging his heels within the hope of reaping multimillion-dollar time beyond regulation bonuses.

Hearts of Darkness confirmed belatedly that Eleanor was not merely an observer on set, but in addition a facilitator. It was she, for example, who satisfied Francis to observe the sacrificial culling of a carabao, a water buffalo, by the Ifugao tribespeople, a ugly spectacle that he ultimately integrated into his movie’s climax.

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The set of Apocalypse Now in 1976. One of many many disasters to befall the manufacturing was the withdrawal of helicopters lent by the Philippines’ strongman president, Ferdinand Marcos. {Photograph}: Dirck Halstead/Getty Photos

The documentary was additionally narrated by Eleanor, incorporating elements of her ebook Notes on the Making of Apocalypse Now (1979; up to date in 1995). She is heard reflecting that “it’s scary to observe somebody you like go into the centre of himself and confront his fears – concern of failure, concern of loss of life, concern of going insane. You must fail somewhat, die somewhat, go insane somewhat, to come back out the opposite aspect.”

She was invested in Apocalypse Now in additional methods than one: Francis had put up their house as collateral. A fortnight into manufacturing, he sacked his lead actor, Harvey Keitel, changing him with Martin Sheen, who later suffered a near-fatal coronary heart assault.

Actors would flip as much as set with no concept what they have been capturing; the phrase “scenes unknown” was an everyday fixture on the day by day call-sheets. Helicopters loaned to the manufacturing by Ferdinand Marcos, the nation’s strongman president, have been abruptly recalled for his struggle on communism. Throughout a storm that destroyed units and halted filming, Francis cooked pasta and performed Puccini’s La Bohème at excessive quantity.

He took what Eleanor later known as “an Italian method” to life: “Very theatrical, throwing stuff up within the air and screaming.” Via all of it, she was undaunted, even sanguine, regardless of how excessive the stakes. “What’s the worst that may occur?” she asks in Hearts of Darkness, wanting again on the mounting threats to the household’s house and funds. “They take away your huge home, they take away your automobile, so what? … I actually wasn’t frightened by it.”

The trailer for Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse

Born in Los Angeles, California, she was raised in Huntington Seaside by her mom, Delphine (nee Lougheed); her father, Clifford Neil, a political cartoonist for the Los Angeles Examiner, died when Eleanor was 10. She was educated at Huntington Seaside highschool, and graduated from UCLA in 1959 with a level in utilized design, happening to do freelance work at architectural installations.

Eleanor and Francis met in Eire in 1962 on the set of the Roger Corman-produced horror movie Dementia 13, which Francis directed; Eleanor was the assistant artwork director. They married a yr later and had three youngsters: Gian-Carlo, who died in a speedboat accident in 1986 on the age of twenty-two; and Roman and Sofia, who each turned film-makers.

In 1971, Francis rushed from the set of The Godfather to movie Eleanor giving start to Sofia. Eleanor later used the footage as a part of an artwork set up. She additionally created an art work in response to Gian-Carlo’s loss of life, Circle of Reminiscence, a chamber of straw bales that she put in in a number of websites over time.

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Eleanor and Francis Ford Coppola throughout capturing of the 1972 movie The Godfather. {Photograph}: Alamy

Even after the kids have been born, it was uncommon for the household to not go away its Napa Valley property (which the Coppolas had purchased after the success in 1972 of The Godfather) to accompany Francis wherever he occurred to be working. After the Philippines, Eleanor and the kids moved to Los Angeles to be with him throughout manufacturing on his musical One from the Coronary heart (1982). They then decamped to Tulsa, Oklahoma, whereas he directed his back-to-back teen films The Outsiders and Rumble Fish (each 1983). On the set of The Godfather Half III (1990), Eleanor recalled how Francis claimed to “[hate] the method of constructing films … he talked about his household and complained about me. I sat there whereas he ran all of it out, not agreeing, and never yielding to the temptation to offer my viewpoint. I simply tried to be current and hear.”

Nonetheless, Eleanor confessed in her 2008 memoir Notes on a Life that she typically regretted not having pursued totally her personal inventive ambitions. In 2023, she informed the New Yorker that Francis “made it very clear that my position was to be the spouse and mom”.

The Coppolas’ wine and lodge companies occupied a few of her time in later life. She additionally returned to textiles, one among her nice passions, in addition to designing costumes for the dance firm ODC San Francisco.

She directed two narrative movies – Paris Can Wait (2016), starring Diane Lane and Alec Baldwin, and Love is Love is Love (2020), with Rosanna Arquette and Cybill Shepherd – and filmed documentary footage on the set of a few of Sofia’s films, together with the irreverent costume drama Marie Antoinette (2006). Sofia devoted her most up-to-date movie, Priscilla (2023), to her mom.

Eleanor is survived by Francis, Roman and Sofia, six grandchildren, Gia, Romy, Cosima, Alessandro, Marcello and Pascal, and a brother, William.


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