Richard has red hair and blue-green eyes.
Thornburg is a very insensitive and nosy man. He believes that everyone should know everything about people, and, as a result, invades their personal lives to get a story. Thornburg often threatens people who refuse to follow his wishes with lawsuits or legal action, like when he put a restraining order on Holly for punching him in the face (which she is indifferent to) or threatened to deport Paulina. Thornburg is also willing to put lives at risk for his own benefits but in the end, he always receives his just deserts.
Thornburg is a Los Angeles news reporter for KFLW-TV News. While he is talking to his girlfriend, he claims he can get a reservation because he interviewed the owner or chef, Wolfgang. However, when he hears Al Powell's distress call, he begs his boss to borrow the van and cover the story. He and his news team drive to the Nakatomi Plaza to cover the story. When the 3rd floor of the Nakatomi Plaza explodes (which killed James and Alexander who were attempting to destroy the SWAT armored tank with their rocket launcher), Thornburg watched in horror and awe before asking his camera man if he got that, which he replies that he did. Later, when he finds background information on John McClane, he drives over to Holly's house where he threatens the maid, Paulina, to let him interview the children or he will get her deported. When he interviews Lucy, terrorist leader Hans Gruber sees this and discovers Holly's family portrait - he takes her captive while he has all of the other hostages to be sent to the roof to be killed. After John kills Hans and attempts to finally leave with Holly, Thornburg has the nerve to try and interview John; Holly angrily punches Thornburg in the face for putting their lives in jeopardy in pursuit of a good story and revealing her identity to Hans, while the several reporters at the KFLW-TV watch the scene and laugh at his expense. Thornburg sarcastically asked his camera man, "Did you get that?"
Two years later, Thornburg happened to be on Holly McClane's flight, Northeast Airlines 140, en route to Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC. The female flight attendants particularly disliked him because he degraded their businesses in his news editorial 'Flying Junkyards' and their careers in another editorial titled 'Bimbos of the Sky.' When he saw Holly, he demanded that he be switched to another seat because of an existing restraining order against her, stemming from Holly punching him in the face in the aftermath of the Nakatomi crisis, though Holly is indifferent to the restraining order. One of the flight attendants offered Holly a bottle of champagne upon learning of what she did to Richard.
Richard later noticed that other airplanes where flying abnormally close to their own plane and began to conduct his own investigation. He went to his colleague and fellow passenger Victor and asked him to use a listening device to monitor the cockpit communications. Upon overhearing a report from Dulles chief engineer Leslie Barnes that terrorists had sabotaged the airport and killed people, Thornburg saw a Pulitzer prize opportunity. He hid in the airplane lavatory and used a phone to call his Washington affiliate, WZDC 11 News, demanding that Celia put him through to Ruben in the newsroom to broadcast the emergency special report. As his emergency news broadcast went live, travelers at the Dulles Airport were thrown into a panic-ridden frenzy. The people stampeded out of the airport, creating mass chaos and blocking efforts by the police to aid in apprehending the terrorists. Chief ATC officer Trudeau watched the chaos unfold from the tower monitors, and cursed Thornburg for having just worsened the rapidly deteriorating situation at the airport. Realizing that he was broadcasting live from the plane, Holly found Thornburg and used a taser from another passenger to subdue him. When he came to, he was sobbing in fear and panic.
Once the plane landed, Thornburg collapsed onto the ground in relief. Thornburg asked an elderly passenger to help him up, but she refused, called him an "asshole", and instead walked over him. Because of his extreme narcissism and willingness to jeopardize the lives of hundreds of people for his own gain (as well as causing a panic at Dulles, thus preventing the police in stopping the terrorists), it can be assumed that Thornburg was further disgraced & ultimately fired after the ordeal since McClane would never hear of him again.
- Richard Thornburg's persona is loosely based off of Walter Peck (Ghostbusters), another character played by his portrayer William Atherton. However unlike Thornburg, Peck is more strict and cruel with his ways and blamed the Ghostbusters for causing all the ghosts they captured to escape, which he actually did.