Ghostbusters Star William Atherton Suffered Years of Verbal Abuse and Trauma Due To His Role on the 1984 Film That Left Him “Genuinely Pi**ed”

Ghostbusters star William Atherton was harassed by fans of the movies.

Ghostbusters Star William Atherton Suffered Years of Verbal Abuse and Trauma Due To His Role on the 1984 Film That Left Him “Genuinely Pi**ed”


  • Ghostbusters grossed $295.2 million at the box office despite a budget of $25 million and was a career-defining stint for director Ivan Reitman and star Bill Murray.
  • William Atherton, who played Walter in the movie, faced backlash from fans who misbehaved with him due to his on-screen avatar in the wake of the film's success.
  • Despite the movie's success, the filming and post-release reactions were forgetful experiences for the actor.
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It’s been close to four decades since Ghostbusters hit the theaters and yet it remains a benchmark in the horror comedy genre. Made against a budget of around $25 million, the film grossed $295.2 million at the box office.

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William Atherton.
William Atherton in Ghostbusters.

The movie turned out to be a career-defining stint for Ivan Reitman, who both produced and directed the story about three parapsychologists in New York City. The movie’s star Bill Murray also got plenty of love for his portrayal of Peter Venkman. However, things weren’t as rosy for William Atherton after the release of Ghostbusters.


Read more: Ghostbusters (1984): The Film’s OG Characters Ranked

How Fans Reacted Toward William Atherton for His Role in Ghostbusters

In Ghostbusters, three scientists, including Bill Murray‘s Dr. Peter Venkman, lose their jobs at a university in New York City. Subsequently, they start an establishment called Ghostbusters to fight evil ghosts lurking in the city. In their high-tech battle with the supernatural, they are also forced to deal with Walter Peck, a self-righteous inspector for the Environmental Protection Agency, who is against the trio’s practices.


As the movie shattered box office records, it also attracted plenty of love in the real world for its scientist trio and the actors who portrayed them. However, William Atherton, who played Walter, had to face anger from Ghostbusters fans, much to his disappointment.

About a year following its release, director Ivan Reitman ran into the actor and found out that he was angry about people misbehaving with him due to his on-screen avatar. Reitman revealed (via Fandom):


“I was expecting him to, sort of, greet me with open arms because of the success of the film and he became quite famous from the movie. And he was genuinely p-ssed. He came up to me and he said, ‘You know, I can’t walk into a bar without people wanting to pick a fight with me.'”

In one particular instance, he heard his name from a crowded bus. As the actor turned to smile and wave at them, several teenagers on the bus shouted, “Yo, d-ckless!”

Read more: After Being Duped Into Starring in Horrid Garfield Movie, Bill Murray Got “Outfoxed” Into Starring in Ghostbusters II After Bad Blood Was Spilled Among Co-stars


William Atherton Was Reluctant About the Marshmallow Man Blowing up Scene

One of the most famous and crucial scenes of Ghostbusters is the blowing up of Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. To showcase the aftermath of that huge burst, Reitman dropped shaving cream on the people on set.

William Atherton and Bill Murray.
William Atherton and Bill Murray.

For the big drop on Walter, he had to first convince Atherton that everything was safe, as he wasn’t sure about shaving cream – which weighed about 100 pounds – being dumped on him.


The assistant directors brought in a stuntman to test the scene. The stuntman couldn’t handle all that shaving cream and knocked flat on his back. Accordingly, Atherton requested to take out 25 pounds or so.

Fair to say, both the filming of Ghostbusters and its post-release reactions were forgetful experiences for the Die Hard actor despite the immense success of the movie.


Read more: “He’s the one who baptized her”: Wes Anderson Rescued Ghostbusters Star Bill Murray After Abuse Allegations Surfaced Against Acting Legend


Written by Vishal Singh

Vishal Singh is a Content Writer at FandomWire. Having spent more than half a decade in the digital media space, Vishal specializes in crafting engaging entertainment- and sports-focused stories. He graduated from university with an honors degree in English Literature.