William Atherton

William Atherton Headshot

Actor

Birth Date: July 30, 1947

Age: 76 years old

Birth Place: Orange, Connecticut

A pale, fair-haired, lanky performer, William Atherton first distinguished himself in the theater. After becoming the youngest member of the Long Wharf Theater Company (New Haven, Connecticut) while still a high school student, he went on to off-Broadway where he originated the part of Ronnie Shaughnessy in John Guare's "The House of Blue Leaves," as well as the title roles of David Rabe's "The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel" (both 1971) and David Wiltse's "Suggs in the City" (1972). That year also saw him make his Broadway debut in the short-lived "The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window" and his feature debut in "The New Centurions."

Often cast as weaklings or high-strung characters, Atherton attracted attention as the likably charismatic escaped convict husband of Goldie Hawn in Steven Spielberg's "The Sugarland Express" (1974) and struck the correct balance of ambition and bewilderment as the aspiring art director whose perceptions of Hollywood shape John Schlesinger's "The Day of the Locust" (1975). He also turned up as a persistent suitor of Diane Keaton in "Looking For Mr. Goodbar" (1977), his last feature for seven years.

During that hiatus, Atherton concentrated primarily on stage work, including a one-man show and Broadway productions of Arthur Miller's "The American Clock" (1980) and Herman Wouk's "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial" (1983). He roared back to features as Walter Peck, the zealous bureaucrat opposed to the methods of the "Ghostbusters" (1984), arguably the most memorable in a series of high profile supporting roles that included the comically unctuous professor in "Real Genius" (1985) and a zealous newsman in "Die Hard" (1988) and its first sequel "Die Hard 2: Die Harder" (1990).

Atherton's Dr. Noah Faulkner in the box office disaster "Bio-Dome" (1996) was really a variation on the creepy academic from "Real Genius," and his transparently vacuous local anchor in "Mad City" (1997) was a rehash of his Thornburg character from the "Die Hard" franchise. The 90s also saw him essay a number of historical figures: Allan Pinkerton in HBO's "Frank and Jesse" (1995), then-state prosecutor Thomas E Dewey in "Hoodlum" (1997) and Hollywood mogul Darryl Zanuck in Martha Coolidge's "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" (HBO, 1999).

Credits

Ghostbusters: Frozen EmpireStream

Actor
Mayor Walter Peck
Movie
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42%

Not the Science Type

Cinematography
Movie
2021

Cleanin' Up the Town: Remembering Ghostbusters

Actor
Show
2019

Cleanin' Up The Town: Remembering Ghostbusters

Self
Movie
2019

Clinical

Actor
Terry
Movie
2017

Jinn

Actor
Father Westhoff
Movie
2014

The Citizen

Actor
Winston
Movie
2013

Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie

Actor
Earle Swinter
Movie
2012

Jersey Shore Shark Attack

Actor
Dolan
Movie
2012

Getting Back to Zero

Actor
Movie
2011

The Kane Files

Actor
Daniel Morgan
Movie
2010

CastleStream

Guest Star
Series
2009
82%

Ghouls

Actor
Movie
2008

Black Crescent Moon

Actor
Jo Dexton
Movie
2008

LifeStream

Guest Star
Series
2007

Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door

Actor
Adult David Moran
Movie
2007

Towards Darkness

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John King
Movie
2007

Kush

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King
Movie
2007

Gone but Not Forgotten

Actor
Show
2005

NUMB3RSStream

Guest Star
Series
2005

Headspace

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Dr. Ira Gold
Movie
2005

Into the Sun

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Agent Block
Movie
2005

Desperate HousewivesStream

Guest Star
Series
2004
72%

Boston LegalStream

Guest Star
Series
2004
86%

LostStream

Guest Star
Principal Reynolds
Series
2004
86%

The Last SamuraiStream

Actor
Winchester Rep
Movie
2003
66%

MonkStream

Guest Star
Commander Nathan Whitaker
Series
2002
91%

Race to SpaceStream

Actor
Stanton
Movie
2001
71%

Burning Down the House

Actor
Arthur Kranston
Movie
2001

The Crow: Salvation

Actor
Nathan Randall
Movie
2000

Law & Order: Special Victims UnitStream

Guest Star
Ned Bogden
Series
1999
78%

El Extranjero

Actor
Arthur
Movie
1999

Butterfly Legend

Actor
Arthur
Movie
1999

Introducing Dorothy Dandridge

Actor
Darryl Zanuck
Movie
1999

The PracticeStream

Guest Star
Series
1997

Michael Kael Contre la World News Company

Actor
James Denit
Movie
1997

HoodlumStream

Actor
Thomas Dewey
Movie
1997
43%

Mad City

Actor
Dohlen
Movie
1997

Executive Power

Actor
President John Fields
Movie
1997

Michael Kael vs. the World News Company

Actor
James Denit
Movie
1997

Intriga en la Casa Blanca

Actor
Movie
1997

Nash Bridges

Guest Star
Series
1996

Bio-DomeStream

Actor
Dr. Noah Faulkner
Movie
1996
4%

Raven Hawk

Actor
Philip Thorne
Movie
1996

The Outer LimitsStream

Actor
Franklin Murdoch
Series
1995

Frank and Jesse

Actor
Allan Pinkerton
Movie
1995

Virus

Actor
Dr. Reginald Holloway
Movie
1995

Broken Trust

Actor
Roemer
Movie
1995

Saints and Sinners

Actor
Terence McCone
Movie
1995

The Pelican BriefStream

Actor
Bob Gminski
Movie
1993
54%

Chrome Soldiers

Actor
Sheriff Blackwell
Movie
1992

Diagnosis of Murder

Actor
Eric Walker
Movie
1992

Oscar

Actor
Overton
Movie
1991

Law & OrderStream

Guest Star
Series
1990

Buried Alive

Actor
Cortland "Cort" van Owen
Movie
1990

Die Hard 2Stream

Actor
Richard Thornburg
Movie
1990
70%

Grim Prairie Tales

Actor
Arthur
Movie
1990

Tales From the Crypt

Actor
Series
1989
82%

Die HardStream

Actor
Richard Thornburg
Movie
1988
94%

Intrigue

Actor
Doggett
Movie
1988

A Fight for Jenny

Actor
Michael Rosen
Movie
1986

No Mercy

Actor
Allan Deveneux
Movie
1986

The Twilight Zone

Actor
Series
1985

The Equalizer

Guest Star
Series
1985

Real GeniusStream

Actor
Prof. Jerry Hathaway
Movie
1985
77%

Murder, She WroteStream

Guest Star
Prosecutor Andy Henley
Series
1984

GhostbustersStream

Actor
Walter Peck
Movie
1984
95%

Malibu

Actor
Stan Harvey
Movie
1983

Tomorrow's Child

Actor
Jim Spence
Movie
1982

CentennialStream

Actor
Jim Lloyd
Miniseries
1978

Looking for Mr. Goodbar

Actor
James
Movie
1977
61%

The Day of the LocustStream

Actor
Tod Hackett
Movie
1975
61%

The Hindenburg

Actor
Boerth
Movie
1975

The Sugarland ExpressStream

Actor
Clovis Michael Poplin
Movie
1974
87%

Class of '44

Actor
Fraternity President
Movie
1973

The New Centurions

Actor
Johnson
Movie
1972