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Fall /Winter 2008

A Notable Life

With her new memoir, Eleanor Coppola finally turns the camera on herself.

By Janet Parmer

It's been a year of self-disclosure and literary achievement for Rutherford resident Eleanor Coppola. After years spent chronicling the behind-the-scenes machinations of her husband, Francis Ford Coppola, she has at last given the world a glimpse inside her own world with the publication of a memoir, Notes on a Life. This is the second literary outing for Coppola; in 1979, she penned Notes on the Making of Apocalypse Now, reflecting on the production of her husband's blockbuster film. In her new book, the soft-spoken private matriarch shares vignettes of her life with Francis and her role as mother to filmmaking children, Sofia and Roman. "For women of my generation, the question is how to balance all of the demands in our lives," says Coppola. "I think the younger generation has a better grip on it." Coppola has worked steadily over the years as a visual artist and filmmaker, and she took time during the book-signing circuit this year for restorative stints in her Napa Valley studio, creating large abstract drawings and sculpture. She joined Francis several times in Argentina, where she's shooting documentary footage of his latest film, Tetro. "It's a way to go to the set and enjoy myself," she explains. Last summer, she was in Austria for the opening of her art installation, "Circle of Memory," created in honor of her son, Gio, who was killed in 1986. Conceived as a way to commemorate children who have died, the installation encourages visitors to write down memories of loved ones and insert them into straw bales. Her family's wine ventures, Rubicon Estate Winery and Rosso & Bianco Winery, also compete for her attention. "I work with the unsung details at the new winery. Sometimes I'm the face of the family. People need to know it's a family-owned business," says Coppola. While she feels a strong tug back to her art, Coppola often finds it difficult to resume after a long hiatus. "I try to find my trail again. I've learned to make use of whatever time I have," says Coppola. "I live without living too far ahead. I go day-to-day."

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