Amid Boston Overdose Crisis, a Pair of Harvard Students Are Bringing Narcan to the Red Line


At First Cambridge City Council Election Forum, Candidates Clash Over Building Emissions


Harvard’s Updated Sustainability Plan Garners Optimistic Responses from Student Climate Activists


‘Sunroof’ Singer Nicky Youre Lights Up Harvard Yard at Crimson Jam


‘The Architect of the Whole Plan’: Harvard Law Graduate Ken Chesebro’s Path to Jan. 6



DIRECTOR Ernest Thompson admits that his new film 1969 is somewhat autobiographical. Thompson says he considers himself to be "more the Kiefer Sutherland character." However, Thompson, who also wrote the screenplay, says that his life isn't the only inspiration for the film. "It's only biographical to a point," he adds. Unlike the film's protagonist, Thompson says he did not break into the county office to steal his draft papers, though he did drive across the country in a leaf-painted bus, seeing the world and "trying to find peace."

Thompson says he remembers the friendships he developed during his college years, some of which he maintains today. He says, "Friendship is very important. [Hollywood] movies are rarely about intimacy or honesty, or things like that." Thompson says he strove for softer qualities in depicting his 1969. "It was great. It was a magical time if you just surrendered yourself to it."

Thompson acknowledges the impact film had on his youth, saying, "There's no describing now the effect that Easy Rider had on us kids. It was really powerful....The Graduate is every college graduate's dream." One sees the influence of these films in 1969, whose two main characters have the timely posters from these films on their walls.

The first-time director says he thinks many screenwriters become directors so that they can have their works produced as they see them. He says, "The possibility of the writer and the director having the same vision is unlikely," and while he says he is still satisfied with his Oscar-winning screenplay of On Golden Pond, he says that "there are things I would have done differently."

He says his technique is guided by a gut feeling rather than an intellectualized plan. Regarding 1969, he says, "I just wrote the story. Some scenes survived every script. they just seemed right."

He used a similar method in choosing the music. Most scenes, he says, were not paired with specific songs, except for Jesse Colin Young's "Get Together," which serves as the film's musical crux. During one scene, where Sutherland and Winona Ryder (who plays the sister of Sutherland's best friend) are escaping to Canada, the song "Wooden Ships" plays on the soundtrack. The lyric ("Go, take a sister then by the hand/Lead her away from this foreign land") seems especially appropriate, yet when pressed on this similarity, Thompson replies that it is merely coincidence.

Emotion seems to be the principle behind Thompson's direction. Thompson admits to the sentimentality in the final scenes of 1969. "It's a wishful [ending]," he says. "I think it's emotionally satisfying while it may be intellectually confusing." He adds, "I don't care to be thought of as a sentimental director...but I don't mind being thought of as a writer and director who does movies and plays that deal with relationships and character more than action or adventure."

As 1969 was Thompson's first attempt at directing, he says he naturally had some reservations. When asked if directing was what he expected it to be, he replies, "It was worse." He says that he did not know all the answers to the questions he was asked on the set, but that he considers the experience a growing one which he looks forward to repeating.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.