William Atherton

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William Atherton
2009 CUN Award Party William Atherton 008.JPG
Atherton in February 2009
Born William Robert Atherton Knight, Jr.
(1947-07-30) July 30, 1947 (age 70)
Orange, Connecticut, United States
Occupation Actor
Years active 1972–present

William Robert Atherton Knight Jr. (born July 30, 1947), known professionally as William Atherton, is an American film, stage and television actor.

Early life[edit]

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


Atherton was successful on the New York stage immediately after graduating from Carnegie Mellon University in 1969 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,[4] as well as the big-budget disaster film The Hindenburg.[5] Atherton also starred as cowboy Jim Lloyd in the 1978 miniseries Centennial, based on the novel by James Michener. In 1984, Atherton appeared in the comedy Ghostbusters as the 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 reporter Richard "Dick" Thornburg in the blockbuster action film Die Hard, and reprised the role in its 1990 sequel Die Hard 2.[6]

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, Law & Order, The Equalizer, Boston Legal, Castle, and Monk. Atherton provided the voice of Dr. Destiny on Justice League. He had a recurring role 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.[7]

Atherton was cast in the final season of ABC's Lost.[8] He appeared in the musical Gigi for the Reprise Theatre in Los Angeles as "Honoré Lachailles" in 2011.[9]

Following his work on the musical, he stepped 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.[10][11]

In summer of 2014, Atherton was cast in a recurring role as Viceroy Mercado in the Syfy series Defiance's second season.

Select filmography[edit]


Video games[edit]



  1. ^ a b "William Atherton profile at". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 2010-12-25. 
  2. ^ "William Atherton Biography". Movies.yahoo.com. Retrieved 2010-12-25. 
  3. ^ "Professional Bio". William Atherton. Retrieved July 1, 2014. 
  4. ^ Canby, Vincent (October 20, 1977). "Film: ‘Goodbar’ Turns Sour". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ Canby, Vincent (December 26, 1975). "Screen: George Scott in ‘Hindenburg’". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ Maslin, Janet (July 3, 1990). "Attention, Claims Adjusters! Willis Is Back in 'Die Hard 2.'". The New York Times. 
  7. ^ Miller, Greg (15 June 2009). "GHOSTBUSTERS: THE VIDEO GAME REVIEW". IGN. 
  8. ^ "Executive Producer Reveals Lost Guest Star on Twitter". tvguide.com. October 28, 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-04. 
  9. ^ Mayank Keshaviah (2011-02-24). "LA Weekly Calendar 'Gigi". LA Weekly. Retrieved 2011-02-24. 
  10. ^ "William Atherton back on the big screen!". Moviehole. 2011-03-03. Retrieved 2011-03-21. 
  11. ^ Weinstein, Joshua L. (2010-01-14). "'Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie' Ramps Up With Galifianakis, Ferrell". Thewrap.com. Retrieved 2011-03-21. 

External links[edit]