Ernest Thompson (born Richard Ernest Thompson; November 6, 1949) is an American writer, actor, and director.
Thompson was born 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 Catholic University, 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 starring Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda. Thompson won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay 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 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 Thirty-Fourth Street, offering Thompson "the first and 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 is probably best known as Ranger Matt Harper on NBC’s 1974 series Sierra and as Dr. Phil Parker on ABC's Westside Medical. Fresh out of college, he appeared on the NBC soap opera Somerset as Tony Cooper #2 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 acted opposite Shirley MacLaine and Jennifer Grey in The West Side Waltz and co-wrote and directed the 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 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.
Upcoming projects include the independent film The Love Line, starring Thompson and Pamela Lambert, and the play Ax of Love, starring Karen Black, both 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.
Now divorced, Thompson lives most of the year in New Hampshire (very close to where On Golden Pond was filmed), where, with co-producers Morgan and Lori Murphy, he has created a company, Whitebridge Farm Productions, whose first movie will be Elysian Farm, written and directed by Thompson.