Pat Roach had no idea the surprising paths his colorful life would take. From Andre the Giant to Indiana Jones, Pat Roach battled against legends in the wrestling ring and on the silver screen!
The Unlikely Career Of Pat Roach
Born in 1937, Pat Roach grew up in Birmingham, England. And boy, grow up, he did! At six foot five, 275 pounds, Pat used his size and strength to his advantage and began training in amateur boxing and martial arts, finding most of his fighting success in Judo.
Roach would earn a black belt in the discipline by age 22.
The following year he would prove his skills by becoming the National Judo Champion in 1960 and then the Midland Area Black Belt Champion in 1962.
At this time, Pat also turned to professional wrestling to make a little extra money.
“Judo” Pat Roach in England
Pat Roach was trained by fellow Birmingham native Alf Kent and would make his professional wrestling debut against George Sleko in 1960.
With his size, strength, and athleticism, Pat was a natural thanks to his Judo, which he still practiced.
Under the tutelage of Leicestershire-based promoter Jack Taylor, Pat learned the business and became more skilled at his craft, earning a decent wage.
With British wrestling getting more exposure on TV, by the time the ’70s rolled around, “Big” Pat Roach had settled comfortably into his heel persona.
He worked with such legends of British wrestling as Marty Jones, Danny Collins, Skull Murphy, Giant Haystacks, Robbie Brookside, Kendo Nagasaki, Mark Rocco, Tony St. Clair, and virtually every name of that era.
Roach preferred wrestling in his native land. As he told Simon Garfield in the 1996 book The Wrestling, “I’ve got nothing against American wrestlers, but the British boys are the best, and I think that’s still probably just about true.”
Pat Roach worked worldwide, including in Germany, Japan, and South Africa. He won the British and European championships and even had a brief stint in the USA.
He also appeared for the Los Angeles office, where his bouts were televised on their Spanish language telecasts in multiple major cities in the United States, including New York.
Between 1974-1975 under the name “Lord” Pat Roach (many British wrestlers were a “lord” when wrestling stateside back then), Roach mixed it up with legends such as Dino Bravo, The Rock‘s grandfather Peter Mavia and even took a pinfall loss to one of the few men who made him look small, the 8th Wonder of the World, Andre The Giant himself.
Among them were Andre, Angelo Mosca, Dutch Savage, Haystacks Calhoun, Karl and Kurt Von Brauner, Kinji Shibuya, Moondog Mayne, Mr. Wrestling, Pepper Martin, High Chief Peter Maivia, the underrated Raul Mata, The Brute (Bugsy McGraw) and Victor Rivera.
And on that card, beloved Haystacks Calhoun and Raul Mata bested Kinji Shibuya and Roach.
The day before, in L.A., Dennis Stamp of wrestling documentary Beyond the Mat fame and Victor Rivera beat legendary manager Sir Oliver Humperdink and Roach.
Particularly impressive, he faced a very young Jean Ferre (Andre the Giant) and Bret Hart in England and “The God of Wrestling” Karl Gotch in Japan.
In short, he was a respected pro who laced up his boots with the very best.
But little did Pat know that a particular Hollywood legend was watching as his career progressed.
Stanley Kubrick, Pat’s Big Break, and Big Miss
The life of Pat Roach forever changed when film director Stanley Kubrick cast him as a milkbar bouncer in his classic A Clockwork Orange.
Roach did something right as Kubrick cast him again for his next film Barry Lyndon. Playing the character “Toole,” Roach would have a famous fistfight scene against Hollywood heartthrob Ryan O’Neal.
What was it Kubrick saw in Roach? Maybe despite being so big, he could move gracefully in the ring, and he saw it translating well into film. But, of course, the ever-humble Pat saw it a different way.
“Stanley Kubrick gave me my first acting job in Clockwork Orange; then he cast me in Barry Lyndon. I didn’t even get an agent until I did three films. Twenty or so years ago, there weren’t so many big, ugly guys around, so there was plenty of work for me!”
Roach soon managed to land an audition for the role of a villain in an up-and-coming Sci-Fi feature. The part ended up going to fellow British bodybuilder David Prowse.
That role was none other than Darth Vader. Talk about a giant, “What if?”
Despite losing out on the iconic Star Wars character, Roach must have impressed George Lucas. The director ended up referring him to none other than Steven Spielberg to be cast in another famous Lucasfilm trilogy.
Pat Roach in Indiana Jones
Besides Harrison Ford, Pat Roach is the only actor to appear in all three original Indiana Jones movies.
“I’ve played four different characters in three Indiana Jones films and have been killed each time!” Pat told the BBC in an interview.
“I was the guy who got chopped up in the propeller; they now show that stunt scene all the time at Universal Studios in America.”
As well as playing the spliced-up skin-headed mechanic, Pat was also a Sherpa who attacked Indy at Marion’s bar earlier in the film in a scene that almost went very wrong.
“We did a take where Harrison hit me with a table, but the table didn’t break, and it knocked me out,” he laughed to Empire film magazine.
“One of the stunt guys ran in and pulled me out of the fire, which was very brave because he made a decision that spoiled Spielberg’s shot.”
Pat would return to the Temple Of Doom in the second film as the temple guard smashed by the rock crusher.
Sadly, his gruesome death was edited out of 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but apparently, it involved the blimp sequence, and Pat can still be seen in the movie.
Friends With Film Immortals
Pat Roach’s presence can be felt primarily in fantasy movies, where he had the most dialogue.
He played Hephaestus in Clash Of The Titans, sharing scenes with legendary actor Laurence Olivier who portrayed Zeus.
And he scared many a child in Willow, playing fearsome baddie General Kael.
Another famous friend of Pat’s was Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom Roach co-starred alongside in Conan The Destroyer and Red Sonja.
Conan The Destroyer was filled with giant stars for Arnie to battle, such as NBA great Wilt Chamberlain and the most famous giant of all, Andre!
Although Andre was hidden by a mask and a rubber suit in an un-credited role as evil God Dogath, Pat played a much bigger part as evil wizard Thoth-Amon, which is crazy to think after Pat did the job for Andre all those years ago.
When the heroic barbarian thwarts Thoth-Amon’s villainous kidnapping scheme, the evil sorcerer transforms into a monster and battles Conan in a now iconic fight sequence in a room of mirrors that features the gif-tastic and often parodied big swing.
No doubt a young Claudio Castagnoli was taking notes.
Looking back at the list, Roach worked with Kubrick and Spielberg, shared screen time with Laurence Olivier and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and battled Indiana Jones, Conan The Barberian, and Sean Connery’s James Bond 007 in the “unofficial” Bond flick Never Say Never again!
In a Bond trivia note, Roach wrestled Harold “Oddjob” Sakata of Goldfinger fame in Japan.
Any way you slice it, though, that’s quite an impressive IMDB (International Movie Data Base) list!
Role in the Film Auf Wiedersehen, Pet
But the role Pat Roach will always be remembered for, at least by audiences in his home country, is that of Bomber from Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.
Auf Wiedersehen, Pet was a comedy-drama that saw the adventures of a group of bricklayers from Newcastle, England, who go off to work abroad.
For American readers, imagine a group of construction workers who all sound a bit like Pac, and you’re halfway there.
Pat’s role as Bomber was the gentle giant and almost a father-like figure to the lads. The character was loved by fans, so much so that it made it impossible for Roach, who was still going strong in the ring, to play the part of a heel anymore.
He even added “Bomber” to his ring name and continued to be cheered by adoring fans until his last match against Hangman Shane Stevens in 1998.
As Pat told the BBC, “I still get approached for autographs for wrestling, James Bond, and Indiana Jones, but I now sign more Auf Wiedersehen, Pet autographs than ever before!”
The Legacy of Pat Roach
Pat Roach took all the love he got during his career and gave it back.
He wrote two books, his autobiography If: The Pat Roach Story and Pat Roach’s Birmingham, devoted to his hometown, where he also opened a fitness center.
Pat would open a second gym during the ’80s in London’s busy Piccadilly Arcade and continue to support British wrestling post-retirement as director of operations for Frontier Wrestling Alliance (FWA), which, at the time, was Britain’s premier wrestling federation.
Pat sadly passed away in 2004 but left behind an endearing legacy, which should serve as a lesson for all.
He was a hard-working, genuine, kind, humble fellow who conquered the world but never forgot where he came from.
Thank you, Bomber!
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