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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