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William Atherton

William Atherton American actor

American actor
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro American actor
A.K.A. William Atherton Knight
Countries United States of America
Occupations Actor Television actor Film actor Stage actor
Gender male
Birth 30 July 1947 (Orange)
The details

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

Early life

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


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.

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. 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.

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.

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

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.

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

Select filmography


  • The New Centurions (1972) - Johnson
  • Class of '44 (1973) - Fraternity President
  • The Sugarland Express (1974) - Clovis Michael Poplin
  • The Day of the Locust (1975) - Tod Hackett
  • The Hindenburg (1975) - Boerth
  • Independence (1976) - Benjamin Rush
  • Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977) - James
  • Ghostbusters (1984) - Walter Peck
  • Real Genius (1985) - Prof. Jerry Hathaway
  • No Mercy (1986) - Allan Deveneux
  • Die Hard (1988) - Richard Thornburg
  • Grim Prairie Tales: Hit the Trail... to Terror (1990) - Arthur
  • Die Hard 2 (1990) - Richard Thornburg
  • Oscar (1991) - Overton
  • The Pelican Brief (1993) - Bob Gminski
  • Saints and Sinners (1994) - Terence McCone
  • Frank & Jesse (1995) - Allan Pinkerton
  • Bio-Dome (1996) - Dr. Noah Faulkner
  • Hoodlum (1997) - Thomas Dewey
  • Mad City (1997) - Malt Dohlen
  • The Crow: Salvation (2000) - Nathan Randall
  • Burning Down the House (2001) - Arthur Kranston
  • Night Visions (2001) (TV series) - William Price
  • Race to Space (2001) - Ralph Stanton
  • Who's Your Daddy? (2003) - Uncle Duncan 'Duncay' Mack
  • The Last Samurai (2003) - Winchester Rep
  • Into the Sun (2005) - Agent Block
  • Headspace (2005) - Dr. Ira Gold
  • Kush (2007) - King
  • The Girl Next Door (2007) - Adult David
  • Jinn (2010) - Father Westhoff
  • Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie (2012)
  • Jersey Shore Shark Attack (2012)
  • The Citizen (2012)

Video games

  • Ghostbusters: The Video Game (2009) (VG) - Walter Peck (Voice)


  • Centennial (1978–1979) (TV miniseries) - Jim Lloyd
  • The House of Mirth (1981) (TV) - Lawrence Selden
  • 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
  • The Equalizer (1987, 1989) (TV series) - Martin 'Alpha' Loeber/Gideon
  • Buried Alive (1990) (TV) - Cortland 'Cort' van Owen
  • Tales from the Crypt (1991) (TV series) - Malcolm Mayflower
  • Diagnosis: Murder (1992) (TV) - Eric Walker
  • Virus (1995) (TV)
  • Nash Bridges (1996) (TV series) - Dr. Linus Mills
  • The Practice (1997, 1999) (TV series) - D.A. Keith Pratt
  • 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)
  • 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
  • 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
  • Defiance (2013) - Viceroy Mercado

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