For those who grew up in the 1980s, many will remember hating actor William Atherton for his hissable characters in such films as Ghostbusters (1984) and Real Genius (1985). Specializing in heady, clueless bureaucrats who never cease to hinder the protagonist and who often get what's coming to them before the credits roll, Atherton is one of those busy character actors who audiences are not likely to forget, even if they can't remember where they know him from. A Connecticut native who got his start on the stage while still in high school, Atherton would subsequently move on to become the youngest member ever accepted into New Haven's Long Wharf Theater repertory. Studies at the Pasadena Playhouse and Carnegie Tech led Atherton to pursue more theater roles, and a few short years later the seasoned stage actor made his leap to the big screen with The New Centurions (1972). A role in Steven Spielberg's The Sugarland Express (1974) found Atherton's feature career getting off to a solid start, and the fledgling actor would continue career momentum with featured roles in The Hindenburg (1975) and Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977). In the 1980s Atherton would develop a convincingly weasel-like persona with roles as the popcorn-hating professor of Real Genius and a relentlessly obnoxious EPA agent who unleashes a nightmare upon New York in Ghostbusters. Following up with a memorably sleazy reporter in Die Hard (1988) and its sequel, Atherton would remain busy in the 1990s with roles in The Pelican Brief (1993), Bio-Dome (1996), Hoodlum, and Mad City (both 1997). The millennial turnover found Atherton appearing in such fare as The Crow: Salvation (2000) and Race to Space (2001), and as 2003 approached his feature career seemed to be having a bit of a resurgence with such major releases as Who's Your Daddy? and The Last Samurai.
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by Jason Buchanan biography