I’m sure when people in the UK hear the name Pat Roach, they know exactly who we are talking about. He accomplished a lot in his life, securing a part in a hit TV show and a number of movie roles. While he was not a leading man, he’s played some iconic characters.

Roach was born on May 19th, 1937 in Birmingham, UK. He would live there his entire life. He grew up to be a giant, topping out at the extra large size of 6′ 5″ and weighing 275 pounds. I don’t know what that is in stones, as I am on the correct side of the Atlantic. Naturally when you’re that big of a man, you could end up in sports, and that’s exactly what Roach did.

He began as an amateur boxer in his teenage years, before becoming a black belt in Judo by the age of 22. Roach ended up finding his way into the squared circle as a professional wrestler. Being the size of a mountain, wrestling suited Roach well. He was trained by Alf Kent, a fellow son of Birmingham that once was a Midland Area Heavyweight Champion.

Roach started out with the name “Big” Pat Roach. Although he was a well known wrestler, the crowd would often boo and jeer him as a typical heel wrestler. Later, after starting his acting career, he changed his in ring name to Pat “Bomber” Roach and began receiving cheers from the crowd instead.

The first match in Roach’s career was against George Selko in 1960. He had many matches, continuing to wrestle after getting into acting. He would go up against some wrestling greats such as Giant Haystacks on a number of occasions. He held the British Heavyweight Championship once and the European Heavyweight Championship twice in his career.

What is unclear is exactly how Roach found his way to the big screen. His debut was Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange as the bouncer at the Milkbar. Apparently Kubrick liked Roach, as he hired him once again, this time as a bare knuckle brawler named Toole in Barry Lyndon.

Roach

After this initial success, Roach had a hard time finding his way in the acting business. He spent the next few years getting small time roles on TV shows, usually a one-off episode. With his size he tried for the role of Darth Vader in Star Wars, but unfortunately he didn’t get the part, losing out to Dave Prowse.

It wasn’t all for nothing. While George Lucas didn’t pick him for Vader, but he did recommend Roach to Steven Spielberg for Raiders of the Lost Ark. He actually plays two different characters in the movie. He first shows up as a large Sherpa who attacks Indiana Jones in a Nepalese bar. His second appearance is the more iconic bald Nazi airplane mechanic, knocking Indy around again before being turned into chop suey by spinning airplane propeller. Not the biggest roles, but that second fight scene is one of the best and I look forward to it every time I watch the movie.

Roach

Not only did Roach have two different roles in the first movie, but he was also in the second and third movies as different character too. He’s the only actor besides Harrison Ford to be in all of the first three Indiana Jones movies. Having him defeated by Indy turned into a bit of a running joke in the series. There was a scene in The Last Crusade were Indy knocks out Roach’s character, but it was cut out. All that remains is a cameo appearance, running alongside Colonel Vogel as they head for the blimp.

During this time Roach was getting other roles as well. Due to his size these were mostly villain roles. He played the S.P.E.C.T.R.E. assassin Lippe in the not-so-official James Bond movie Never Say Never Again, against Sean Connery reprising the role of 007.

He plays opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Destroyer and again in Red Sonja, where we get to see Roach bested by the Titular character herself. Roach has played many bad guys through his acting career and a lot of them are very memorable. I’d argue none as much as General Kael in the movie Willow. His stature, with that skull mask, made him menacing. This is still a character I think of when talking about the best villains in movies.

Willow

Back in the UK, as well as being a famous wrestler, Roach was well known for his role in a TV show titled Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. In the 80s series he plays a brick layer that goes by the name Brian “Bomber” Busbridge in a nod to his wrestling career. It was highly popular in the UK and even came back for a new run in the early 2000s.

Alongside Roach’s steady career of acting and wrestling he published an autobiography titled If – The Pat Roach Story. It is based on his favorite poem by Rudyard Kipling and was co-written by Shirley Thompson. They would write another book together – Pat Roach’s Birmingham.

Roach never really left his home city of Birmingham other than when working. During his career as an actor many people tried talking him into moving to the United States, but he always stayed true to his roots. He was also a local businessman. He owned and ran a health club in North-East Birmingham and owned and co-managed a scrapyard in Saltley, Birmingham.

Roach

On July 17, 2004 Pat Roach’s battle with esophageal cancer ended. He died in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, UK. This was only 15 miles away from the place he was born. He achieved so much in his life, more than most, and probably would’ve done more if not taken at the early age of 67.

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