Eleanor Coppola has never revealed the personal cost of raising her remarkable film-making family - until now. In exclusive extracts from her memoirs, she recalls the envy she felt towards her daughter Sofia, the battles with her husband Francis and the grief caused by the violent death of her eldest son
May 15, 1998, Los Angeles
I am outside having brunch in the courtyard of the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Francis and Sofia are seated across from me talking intently. Yesterday was Sofia's birthday. She turned 27. She is beautiful in an imperfect way. The bump on her nose is prominent in the light falling on her face. Her brows are pinched together as she concentrates on what Francis is telling her and writes notes in the red leather agenda he gave her for Christmas. She is going to direct her first feature film starting next month. It is a low-budget production with a script Sofia wrote from a book called The Virgin Suicides. I can hear Francis say, "Sit right next to the camera so the actors see you; see you're in control. Remember that the actors' hands are almost as important as their faces. Hands are very expressive. If you cut hands out of the frame you're losing 30 per cent of the performance."
I am very happy for Sofia, happy that Francis is being such a good father and mentoring her, but I also feel a hot, aching jealousy in my chest. I'm trying to just notice my emotions, the way I was instructed in Zen meditation, to neither wallow in them nor push them aside.