Union Leader – March 24

New Hampton writer: Sequel to ‘On Golden Pond’ in the works

Sunday News Correspondent
March 24. 2018 9:20PM

Ernest Thompson, in his New Hampton home, stands by his Oscar for “On Golden Pond” and a print of Henry Fonda’s “Three Hats” painting. (John Koziol/Sunday News Correspondent)

HOLDERNESS – Ernest Thompson has multiple drafts of a script, a working title and some strong ideas about who should star in a sequel to “On Golden Pond.”Thirty-seven years after “On Golden Pond” – starring Katharine Hepburn and Jane and Henry Fonda – won Thompson an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, the writer is searching for some of the same luck that helped make New Hampshire’s Squam Lake a star.

Set in a lake house, “On Golden Pond” is the story of an inter-generational family struggling to reconnect.

A hit on Broadway, “On Golden Pond,” which was originally set on a lake in Maine, almost didn’t make it to the big screen due to a Screen Actors Guild strike in 1980.

As Thompson, 68, recalled during a Thursday interview at his longtime home in New Hampton, Hepburn called SAG and told the organization that their life expectancy was “about 17 minutes.” She and Henry Fonda each won Academy Awards for their portrayals of Ethel and Norman Thayer in the film.

The guild gave the OK for “On Golden Pond” and now, as Thompson eyes shooting “Home on Golden Pond” this summer, he faces new challenges.

“I’ve got a producer who’s mad for this story,” said Thompson, adding that Ileen Maisel, the founder of Amber Entertainment, “intends to shoot at the end of this summer into foliage season.”

This marina on Little Squam Lake in Holderness was featured in the 1981 movie “On Golden Pond.” (John Koziol/Sunday News Correspondent)

Thompson said that while the movie will be shot, its financing will determine where that happens.

Jane Fonda – who in the original film played the Thayers’ daughter, Chelsea – had purchased the rights to the play so that her real-life father could play her on-screen dad.
“On Golden Pond” was shot with a budget of $15 million and in release earned $119 million.

$15,000,000 in 1980 is equivalent to $50 million today, said Thompson, which is about the right amount to cover multiple days of shooting and top-tier actors in a major production.

But thanks to what he described as “the relative ease in shooting in the hi-def age, and my fast-and-furious approach as a director, our budget for the sequel will fall closer to the 12-15-million-dollar range.””

He said “On Golden Pond” took about 52 days to shoot and he estimated the sequel could take 35.
No actors have been approached for the sequel but Thompson hoped for talent like that of Glenn Close, Sally Field or Jeff Bridges.

As to financing, Thompson said there were two ways to make up for the fact that New Hampshire, unlike several other New England States, does not have a tax credit for films.

The first is to reach out to so-called “angel investors,” he said – citing how a Denver couple, not in the movie business, provided millions of dollars for the production of 2009’s “Precious,” which garnered six Academy Award nominations, and won two Oscars.

Failing to make that happen, he said, would mean that “we shoot for two days on Squam Lake and then go to Virginia or Georgia.”

But Thompson really wants to shoot on Squam Lake again, noting that the house used in “On Golden Pond” has weathered perfectly for the sequel.

Thompson said the sequel, unlike the original, was inspired by events close to him.

In 2007, Thompson’s mother, Esther, died, leaving him and his siblings with the task of disposing of a house filled with memories in a faraway place.

The conflict in “Home on Golden Pond” comes after the main characters realize that the “pristine and idyllic place” they used to love is gone, said Thompson, despoiled by environmental degradation and, as he envisions it, threatened by a mustache-twirling bad guy.

The antagonist in question is buying up all the land along Golden Pond and plans to build a resort, Paradise on Golden Pond. That doesn’t sit well with a new generation of Thayers.

“I’ve always been struck by the differences between the ‘summer people’ and ‘the locals,’?” said Thompson. He said that while he had been a member of the former, he enjoyed the company of the latter and found them to be “more interesting.”

There’s a national longing “for a place where you fit in. A lot of people feel shut out,” Thompson explained, which is why now is the right time for “Home on Golden Pond.”

Thompson said the financing for the movie has to be in place by July or it will not be shot in New Hampshire at all.

Matt Newton, the director of the New Hampshire Film Office, would love to have the sequel to “On Golden Pond” shot in the Granite State, saying the original movie has had a “residual and long-lasting effect” that keeps luring visitors to Squam Lake.

While he sympathized with how New Hampshire does not have a film tax credit, Newton said there also wasn’t one when “On Golden Pond” was filmed.

“Five to six years ago, we were one of the five to six states without a tax incentive,” he said. “Now we are one of 16.”

Gary Chaffee, the general manager of Walter’s Basin restaurant in Holderness, which is right next door to the marina that has cameos in “On Golden Pond,” welcomed the possibility of a follow-up.

“We get a fair amount of business, especially during the fall when it’s leaf-peeper season, from people who travel to Holderness and ask a lot of questions about where the movie was filmed.”

“Home On Golden Pond,” Chaffee said, would be “a good thing for the entire Squam Lakes area.”

Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn in a scene from “On Golden Pond.” (Universal Pictures/Photofest)

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