William Atherton's career has spanned motion pictures, Broadway and television. He first achieved international recognition as the leading man in 史蒂文·斯皮尔伯格's debut feature 横冲直撞大逃亡 (1974), and next starred in 约翰·施莱辛格's 淑女荡妇情人 (1975), 罗伯特·怀斯's 兴登堡遇难记 (1975) and Richard Brooks' 寻找顾巴先生 (1977). He is known worldwide for what have become his signature film characters: the television reporter, Dick Thornburg in the action blockbusters 虎胆龙威 (1988) and 虎胆龙威2 (1990), the EPA official, Walter Peck in 捉鬼敢死队 (1984), Professor Jerry Hathaway, the conniving professor in 天才反击 (1985) and Dr. Noah Faulkner, the mad scientist in 抓狂双宝 (1996). Among his more than 30 feature films are co-starring roles in 约翰·兰迪斯' 弹指威龙 (1991), 比尔·杜克's 暴徒 (1997), 理查德·皮尔斯's No Mercy (1986), 艾伦's 塘鹅暗杀令 (1993), Costa-Gavras' 危机最前线 (1997) and 爱德华·兹威克's 最后的武士 (2003).
On television, he has starred in numerous miniseries including the classic Western 世纪纪念 (1978) and headed the all-star cast in Malibu (1983). His many made-for-TV movies include leading roles in TNT's production of 琼·迪丹's Broken Trust (1995) and his portrayal of 达里尔 in HBO's Golden Globe winner 红颜血泪 (1999). Atherton was a recurring series lead opposite Damien Lewis on NBC-TV's Life (2007) and portrayed Principal Reynolds in the final season of Lost (2004). He has reprised his role as Walter Peck in the video game Ghostbusters (2009), released on June 16, 2009.
Consistently honored for his work on the stage, Atherton has created roles on and off Broadway for many of America's leading playwrights. These include the title role in Joseph Papp's original production of David Rabe's "The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel", the role of Ronnie in John Guare's "The House of Blue Leaves" and Bing Ring Ling in his "Rich and Famous". He also starred in the Broadway premiere of Arthur Miller's "The American Clock" and the Tony-winning revival of Herman Wouk's "The Caine Mutiny Court Martial". Among his more than 20 well-known productions are the acclaimed New York premieres of 弗兰茨·卡夫卡's "The Castle" and Kressman Taylor's "Address Unknown". For his work on the stage, he has received the Drama Desk Award, the Outer Circle Critics Award, the Theatre World Award and nominations for an Obie and Chicago's Joseph Jefferson Award.