William Atherton

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William Atherton
2009 CUN Award Party William Atherton 008.JPG
William Atherton in February 2009
Born William Atherton Knight
(1947-07-30) July 30, 1947 (age 66)
Orange, Connecticut, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1972–present

William Atherton (born July 30, 1947), born William Atherton Knight, is an American film, stage and television actor.

Early life[edit]

Atherton was born in Orange, Connecticut, the son of Robert Atherton Knight and Roby (maiden name Robison).[1] He studied acting at the Drama School at Carnegie Tech and graduated from Carnegie-Mellon University in 1969.[1][2]


Atherton made a splash on the New York stage immediately after graduating college and worked with many of the country's leading playwrights including David Rabe, John Guare and Arthur Miller, winning numerous awards for his work on and off Broadway.[3] He got his big break playing hapless fugitive Clovis Poplin in The Sugarland Express, the feature film debut of Steven Spielberg. After this, he garnered major roles in dark dramas such as The Day of the Locust and Looking for Mr. Goodbar, as well as the big-budget disaster film The Hindenburg. He also starred as cowboy Jim Lloyd in the ground-breaking 1978 miniseries Centennial, based on the novel by James Michener.

Atherton entered pop culture history in 1984, when he appeared in the hit comedy Ghostbusters as the overbearing EPA agent Walter Peck. In 1985, Martha Coolidge chose Atherton to play Professor Jerry Hathaway in the teen comedy Real Genius. In 1988, Atherton played narcissistic reporter Richard "Dick" Thornburg in the blockbuster action film Die Hard, as well as its 1990 sequel.

Other film credits include No Mercy, The Pelican Brief, Bio-Dome, Mad City, The Crow: Salvation, The Last Samurai, Grim Prairie Tales, the TV movies Buried Alive, Headspace and Virus. He has also made guest appearances on such TV shows as The Twilight Zone, Murder She Wrote, Desperate Housewives, The Equalizer, Law & Order, Boston Legal, and Monk. Atherton also provided the voice of Dr. Destiny on Justice League. Recently, Atherton was a recurring series lead in NBC's detective drama Life.

While starring in The Day of the Locust, Atherton was offered and accepted the opportunity to provide lead vocals for "What'll I Do", the main title theme for the Robert Redford film version of The Great Gatsby.

His 2007 appearances included the film The Girl Next Door, an adaptation of the best-selling Jack Ketchum novel of the same name.

He has reprised his role as Walter Peck in Ghostbusters: The Video Game, released on June 16, 2009.

Atherton was cast in the final season of ABC's Lost.[4]

He appeared in the musical Gigi for the Reprise Theatre in Los Angeles in the role of Honoré Lachailles throughout spring of 2011.[5]

Following his work on the musical, Atherton steps into a comedic role in Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie, produced by Will Ferrell's Funny or Die, Gary Sanchez Productions and Abso Lutely Productions.[6][7]



Video games[edit]


  • Centennial (1978–1979) (TV miniseries) - Jim Lloyd
  • A Single Light (1981) (TV)
  • The House of Mirth (1981) (TV) - Lawrence Selden
  • Tomorrow's Child (1982) (TV) - Jim Spence
  • Malibu (1983) (TV) - Stan Harvey
  • The Twilight Zone (1985, 1987) (TV series) - Mr. Dundee/Brian Wolfe
  • Murder, She Wrote (1985, 1987, 1991) (TV series) - Larry Holleran/Greg Dalton/Andy Henley
  • A Fight for Jenny (1986) (TV) - Michael Rosen
  • The Equalizer (1987, 1989) (TV series) - Martin 'Alpha' Loeber/Gideon
  • Intrigue (1988) (TV) - Doggett
  • Buried Alive (1990) (TV) - Cortland 'Cort' van Owen
  • Tales from the Crypt (1991) (TV series) - Malcolm Mayflower
  • Diagnosis: Murder (1992) (TV) - Eric Walker
  • Chrome Soldiers (1992) (TV) - Sheriff Blackwell
  • Virus (1995) (TV)
  • Broken Trust (1995) (TV) - Roemer
  • Raven Hawk (1996) (TV) - Philip Thorne
  • Nash Bridges (1996) (TV series) - Dr. Linus Mills
  • The Practice (1997, 1999) (TV series) - D.A. Keith Pratt
  • Michael Kael contre la World News Company (1998) - James Denit
  • The Outer Limits (1998) (TV series) - Franklin Murdoch
  • Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999) (TV) - Darryl Zanuck
  • Night Visions (2001) (TV series) - William Price
  • Law & Order (2002, 2004) (TV series) - Don Snyder/Dan Jensen
  • Justice League (2003) (TV series) - Dr. Destiny (voice only)
  • Gone But Not Forgotten (2004) (TV) - Sen. Ray Colby
  • Boston Legal (2005) (TV series) - A.D.A. Howard Zale
  • Stargate SG-1 (2006) (TV series) - Varta
  • Desperate Housewives (2006) (TV series) - Dr. Barr
  • Numb3rs (2007) (TV series) - Warren Pierce
  • Aces 'N' Eights (2008) (TV) - Howard
  • Ghouls (2008) (TV) - Stefan
  • Monk (2008) (TV series) - Commander Nathan Whitaker
  • Life (2008–2009) (TV series) - Mickey Rayborn
  • Lost (Episode 607: "Dr. Linus") (2010) (TV series) - Principal Donald Reynolds
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (2010) (TV series) - Ned Bogden
  • Castle (Episode 61: "Head Case") (2011) (TV series) - Dr. Ari Weiss
  • Workaholics (Episode 306: "The Meat Jerking Beef Boys") (2012) - Thor Holmvik


  1. ^ a b "William Atherton Biography (1947-)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 2010-12-25. 
  2. ^ "William Atherton Biography - Yahoo! Movies". Movies.yahoo.com. 1947-07-30. Retrieved 2010-12-25. 
  3. ^ "Bio". William Atherton. 
  4. ^ "Executive Producer Reveals Lost Guest Star on Twitter". tvguide.com. 28 October 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-04. 
  5. ^ "LA Weekly Calendar 'Gigi"- - Review by Mayank Keshaviah". laweekly.com. 2011-02-24. Retrieved 2011-02-24. 
  6. ^ "William Atherton back on the big screen!". Moviehole. 2011-03-03. Retrieved 2011-03-21. 
  7. ^ Weinstein, Joshua L. (2010-01-14). "'Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie' Ramps Up With Galifianakis, Ferrell | The Wrap Movies". Thewrap.com. Retrieved 2011-03-21. 

External links[edit]