Ernest Thompson, (born November 6, 1949), in Bellows Falls, Vermont, is an American Playwright and actor. He spent his early years in Massachusetts, Maryland and Washington, D.C., attending secondary school and American University. He is best known as the author of the play, On Golden Pond, which he penned at the early age of twenty-eight. The play opened off-Broadway in 1978, and then onto the Broadway stage. On Golden Pond went on to become a hit movie in 1981, starring Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda. Thompson won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for the movie in 1982, 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 Katherine Hepburn. The movie version originally premiered on Thanksgiving night on CBS television in 1995. West Side Waltz, the movie, starred actors Shirley Maclaine, Liza Minnelli, and Kathy Bates, and Jennifer Grey. Thompson is quoted as saying that West Side Waltz came about after a telephone call he received on behalf of legendary screenwriter, George Seaton, who wrote the screen play for Miracle On Thirty-Fourth Street, offering Thompson "the first and only George Seaton grant” to write a new play. Thompson spent a great deal of time on his second popular work, much unlike On Golden Pond, which he said was a very quick work to write. West Side Waltz, the play, became a hit on Broadway, although the movie version, originally shown on network television, was not greeted with the popularity as was On Golden Pond, even though critics praised the movie that Thompson himself directed.
Ernest Thompson, the actor, was probably best known as Ranger Matt Harper on NBC’s short-lived 1974 series, Sierra. Thompson admits he was lucky as an actor, as his work in acting was not steady, and was quoted as saying he turned to writing after too much familiarity with unemployment.
Later in the '80s, he wrote the drama Sweet Hearts Dance, directed by Robert Greenwald and starring Susan Sarandon and Don Johnson. He then went on in 1989 to direct 1969, starring Kiefer Sutherland and Winona Ryder. During the '90s, he stuck with writing and directing made-for-TV movies with Take Me Home Again, and Out of Time. In 2001, he directed his own TV version of On Golden Pond, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.
Thompson announced in 2005 he had created a pilot TV show for the TNT network about a minister who has doubts about his own faith.
Today, Thompson lives most of the year in New Hampshire, where he runs a summer camp for aspiring playwrights.