Napalm and espresso coffee

THE MAKING OF APOCALYPSE NOW Eleanor Coppola Faber £9.99

When Francis Ford Coppola went to the Philippines to shoot Apocalypse Now, he lobbed his wife some cameras and told her to make a documentary. It sounds peremptory, and it was. "I don't know," Eleanor notes, "if he is just trying to keep me busy or if he wants to avoid the addition of a professional team." But she turned out to be a good choice. Her documentary - Hearts of Darkness - was a gripping portrait of creativity and megalomania, with one especially great scene when the director discovers his leading man has had a heart attack. "No one has a heart attack," he shouts, "unless I say so." Also Sprach Coppola.

These notes, however, offer something different. They will disappoint film buffs. The assured and epic screen version does not survive the trip onto the page. "Being on set every day," Eleanor confesses, "we get immune to the incredible imagery." She relies instead on a steady enthusiasm for the everyday. Coffee in particular plays a leading role. When Martin Sheen is bleeding and deliriously drunk after shooting the famous opening scene - the judo pose, the smashed mirror - she thinks: "I should go home and get some espresso coffee in a thermos." It is quite possible that in more flamboyant hands the coffee could have been hot stuff, but Eleanor is anything but an expansive writer. These really are notes. When an insect bites the back of her hand she writes: "I have an insect bite on the back of my hand."

Her notes are not so much about the film as about her own feelings during the shoot, so it is not surprising that the most vivid strand concerns her husband's infidelity. Beautiful actresses keep telling Francis he's the greatest man on the planet, or write notes saying: "Thank you for letting me participate in your genius." This gets Eleanor down a bit, but she is confident and optimistic. "The more I see him as he is," she writes, "the more I love him." The feeling isn't mutual. He declares he loves someone else, and talks of divorce. Her reaction is to weep; his is to smash the glass table, the one they keep ordering their daughter not to put her feet on. It's cruel, and very sad: a parable about the heavy domestic price exacted by high drama. But you can see how it happened: Francis was worrying away about the contradictory nature of war and the vibrancy of his own talent, while Eleanor was telling the kids not to nibble the roast until dad got home.

Eleanor finds herself in an important but uncomfortable role - as her husband's conscience. Late on, she sends him a haughty telex, accusing him of setting up "his own Vietnam" in the Philippines, with his flown- in air conditioners and wine and steaks. She also calls him "an asshole." This might have been just a coded way of saying that she's fed up of fixing up the house while he shoots rapids being a genius, but he replies with "an avalanche of anger." These moments are sparingly told, though; and while we can understand why, some big opportunities are missed. The sense in which the recreation of Vietnam in Manila was an arrogant imposition in its own right is worth pursuing, but brushed aside. We see Francis watching Napalm burn up a beach and murmuring: "This could never happen in America. The environmentalists would kill you." There is a fair amount about the craftsmanship that goes into big films, but the only detail that catches the domineering American reflex which Coppola both typifies and satirises concerns the footprints on the loo seats at the military base. They are too high for many Filipinos. The locals have to climb up and squat.

Francis was fired with self-dramatisation and excess. He talked about death with Marlon and Bobby and Marty, while Eleanor stayed close to the children. And it's tragic, because these are, to be honest, the bits you skip on your way to the next blow-up with Brando. Still, we can at least blame the director for the failure of this book to tell the story of the film. If Eleanor had not had her own unhappiness to record, she might not have been immune to the incredible things that were happening. The sludgy implication that working on the film somehow lured all participants towards their own private apocalypse is, alas, not quite enough to make up the lost ground.

Arts and Entertainment
'I do think a woman's place is eventually in the home, but I see no harm in her having some fun before she gets there.'

Is this the end of the Dowager Countess?tv
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Martin of Coldplay performs live for fans at Enmore Theatre on June 19, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith from The Office ten years on

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams prepares to enter the House of Black and White as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones season five

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Albert Hammond Junior of The Strokes performs at the Natural History Museum on July 6, 2006 in London, England.

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn