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William Atherton

William Atherton

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Also Known As: William Atherton Knight Ii Died:
Born: July 30, 1947 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Orange, Connecticut, USA Profession: actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

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,...

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).

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Citizen, The (2013)
5.
 Aces 'N' Eights (2008)
6.
 Ghouls (2008)
8.
9.
 Towards Darkness (2007)
10.
 Headspace (2006)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1964:
Stage debut in "The Boy Friend" at the Clinton (Connecticut) Playhouse
1971:
Portrayed Ronnie Shaughnessy in original off-Broadway production of John Guare's "The House of Blue Leaves"
1971:
Originated title role in off-Broadway production of David Rabe's "The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel"
1972:
Screen acting debut in "The New Centurions"
1972:
Broadway debut, "The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window"
1972:
Created title role of David Wiltse's "Suggs in the City" on stage
1974:
Gained critical attention for his work opposite Goldie Hawn in Steven Spielberg's "The Sugarland Express"
1974:
Sang "What'll I Do?" behind title credits for "The Great Gatsby"
1975:
Portrayed a budding art director smitten by aspiring starlet Karen Black in "The Day of the Locust"
1975:
Played saboteur who planted the bomb on "The Hindenberg"
1976:
Acted the part of Bing Ringling in New York Shakespeare Festival production of Guare's "Rich and Famous"
1977:
Cast as Diane Keaton's beau in "Looking for Mr. Goodbar"
1978:
Performed in one-man show, "William Atherton: Acting, Ethics, Person"
1978:
TV miniseries debut, "Centennial" (NBC)
1980:
Returned to Broadway in Arthur Miller's "The American Clock"
1983:
Back on Broadway as Lieutenant Commander John Challee in revival of Herman Wouk's "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial"
1984:
Co-starred in "Ghostbusters" as the butt of perhaps Bill Murray's funniest line
1988:
Created role of newscaster Dick Thornburg in "Die Hard"
1990:
Reprised role of Thornburg in "Die Hard 2: Die Harder"
1992:
Delivered an assured performance as the corrupt sheriff in "Chrome Soldiers" (USA Network)
1993:
Appeared in "The Pelican Brief"
1995:
Portrayed Allan Pinkerton in "Frank and Jesse" (HBO)
1996:
Co-starred as Dr. Noah Faulkner, the head of the environmentally-controlled scientific community called "Bio-Dome"
1997:
Played New York state prosecutor Thomas E Dewey in "Hoodlum"
1997:
Returned to journalistic mode as an arrogant TV newscaster in Costa-Gavras' "Mad City"
1998:
Essayed pathetically hormonal US President in routine thriller "Executive Power"
1999:
Portrayed Darryl Zanuck in Martha Coolidge's "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" (HBO)
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Pasadena Playhouse: Pasadena , California -
Carnegie Institute of Technology: Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania - 1969

Notes

After Peck (Atherton) charges the Ghostbusters with fraudulently staging the psychic disturbances, Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) proclaims: "Everything was fine with our system until the power grid was shut off by 'dickless' (Atherton) here." When Peck responds by accusing them of causing the explosion, the mayor (David Margulies) asks, "Is this true?" Venkmen (Bill Murray) replies: "Yes, it's true. This man has no dick." Peck lunges wildly at Venkman, and only after several frantic moments is calm restored to the office. "Well, that's what I heard," Venkman adds quietly. --from "Making Ghostbusters", edited by Don Shay

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Bobbi Goldin. Married on December 8, 1980.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Robert Atherton Knight.
mother:
Myrtle Knight.

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