AV Club does Random Roles with William Atherton

Speaking of Walter Peck, the Onion’s AV Club featured William Atherton in this week’s Random Roles – it’s an interview that is guided by and specifically about the actor’s roles over the years. Ghostbusters, as you’d expect, features prominently – both the movie and the video game.

You can, and should, read the whole article here.

Ghostbusters (1984)—“Walter Peck”

WA: I had finished doing a Broadway gig, and I was out here. I met with Dan [Aykroyd], and I talked a bit. Gilda Radner and I had done George Abbott’s Broadway together, so we were all kind of aware of each other. So when this happened, they asked me to do it, and I said fine, but as I’ve said many times, I said, “What do you want me to—I can’t compete with you guys being funny. That’s insane.” So Ivan [Reitman] and I talked, and I said, “I’ve got to be a male Margaret Dumont. I just don’t know why it’s funny, you know? It can’t be funny, and I don’t find them in the least bit charming. I have to be outraged.” And that’s what we did.

AVC: How much was your part written?

WA: It was all written. There would be riffs and [Bill] Murray would go off, and he’d improvise, and you would have to follow him, which was great. Like the mayor’s office—a lot of that scene is improvised. Bill was great. He’d kind of throw it all out there, and you’d kind of pick it up and throw it. That’s what you do with Murray.

AVC: That seems like it would be a pretty grueling shoot. Was it?

WA: I didn’t have that. I had a perfectly good time. I thought part of it was grueling in New York, when they were on Central Park West and 66th Street. It was really tough for them. You’re closing it all off to shoot a movie. It’s New York; it’s not Indianapolis. You have a lot of severely ticked people when that happens. So they had a lot of it, but I didn’t.

AVC: Not even when you got all the shaving cream dumped on you?

WA: We had the eighth-grade science test. I went under the bag, and I asked, “How much shaving cream is in there?” And they said, “Not that much.” So I said, “Well, how much does it weigh?” “It’s about 75 pounds, but it’s shaving cream.” “You know the whole thing about 75 pounds of feathers and 75 pounds of lead? It’s about the same thing. [Laughs.] So can we figure out what’s going to happen with this?” So they put some poor stunt guy underneath to show the sissy actor “Okay, nothing’s going to happen.” So they unleashed it, and it flattened him. So they took out half of the shaving cream, and I went in very happily and was slimed.

AVC: That’s such a big part, probably the one people most associate with you.

WA: That and the Die Hards. I think it’s the picture that anybody who’s in it is associated with more than anything else, including Murray and Aykroyd and everybody. If you think about one movie with any of them, it’s Ghostbusters, and I’m not different from anybody else in that movie. The movie became enormous. We knew it was going to be big, but it was a culture shift. It’s just like getting hit by the bus, there.

AVC: What did you have to do to reprise that role for the videogame?

WA: Oh, it’s great. You get paid a lot of money to sit in a room for about two hours; all you do is go “Oh!” “Ah!” “Uh!” I can do that for you again, but it will cost you a great deal of money.

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