Ernest Thompson (born Richard Ernest Thompson; November 6, 1949) is an American writer, actor, and director.
Thompson was born as Richard Ernest Thompson in Bellows Falls, Vermont. He spent his early years in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine, moving to Maryland as a junior high school student. He attended the University of Maryland and The Catholic University of America, graduating cum laude from American University in 1971.
Thompson is known as the author of the play On Golden Pond, which he wrote at the age of twenty-eight. The play opened Off Off Broadway in 1978, starring Tom Aldredge and Frances Sternhagen. A great success at the Kennedy Center, it opened at the New Apollo Theater on Broadway February 28, 1979. Revived the following season at the Century Theatre, On Golden Pond ran for more than 400 performances. It went on to become a hit 1981 film, starring Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda. Thompson won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1981, as well as awards from the Golden Globes and the Writers Guild of America.
Thompson’s second popular play, The West Side Waltz, opened on Broadway, starring Katharine Hepburn on November 19, 1981. Thompson is quoted as saying that The West Side Waltz came about after a telephone call he received on behalf of legendary screenwriter George Seaton, creator of such classics as Miracle on 34th Street, offering Thompson "the only George Seaton grant" to write a new play for the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. Thompson wrote and directed a television version based on the play, premiering on CBS Thanksgiving night 1995, starring Shirley MacLaine, Liza Minnelli, Kathy Bates, and Jennifer Grey.
As an actor, Thompson's only Broadway appearance was as drifter Hal Carter in Summer Brave, William Inge's revised version of his play Picnic. He portrayed Ranger Matt Harper on NBC’s 1974 series Sierra and Dr. Phil Parker on ABC's Westside Medical. Fresh out of college, he appeared on the NBC soap opera Somerset as Tony Cooper and in the television films The Rimers of Eldritch and F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Last of the Belles. Other acting credits include roles in the Bob Fosse movie Star 80 and Next Stop Wonderland, directed by Brad Anderson.
Thompson wrote the screenplay for the feature film Sweet Hearts Dance, directed by Robert Greenwald and starring Susan Sarandon and Don Johnson. He then went on to direct 1969, starring Kiefer Sutherland, Robert Downey, Jr., and Winona Ryder.
During the 1990s, Thompson wrote the television film Take Me Home Again (released on DVD as The Lies Boys Tell) in 1994, based on the novel by Lamar Herrin, starring Kirk Douglas and Craig T. Nelson, in which Thompson also appeared. He directed and acted opposite Shirley MacLaine and Jennifer Grey in The West Side Waltz and co-wrote and directed the Emmy-nominated Showtime movie Out of Time, starring James McDaniel and Mel Harris.
In 2000, Thompson directed his 12 short plays, The Penis Responds, Off Off Broadway, costarring with Richard Gilliland. In 2001, he directed his own live TV version of On Golden Pond, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. His play White People Christmas played at the Zephyr Theatre in Los Angeles, directed by Thompson.
In 1991 his son August was born. In 1993, Thompson married Kristie Lanier at his home in New Hampshire, where he raised daughters Heather and Danielle. Thompson and Lanier later divorced. On Christmas Day in 2012, he married Kerrin (Rocha) Adrian.
Thompson lives most of the year in New Hampshire (very close to where On Golden Pond was filmed). In 2008, Thompson co-founded Whitebridge Farm Productions with partners Morgan Murphy and Lori Gigliotti-Murphy. He wrote, directed and starred in the company's first two movies, Heavenly Angle and Time and Charges, both of which were primarily filmed in the Granite State and offered by Whitebridge Farm Productions as On Location Training to anyone of any age or background interested in any aspect of filmmaking. More than 800 people participated. Thompson will be writing and directing the company's third movie in the summer of 2015.