Unsung Heroes: Pat Roach

The term “gentle giant” is often a cliche only because it is true. And it very much applied to 6ft 5in Pat “Bomber” Roach: Birmingham born gentleman of the wrestling ring, writer, and also actor / stunt performer, who played many heavies in genre films. This in contrast to his  cornerstone role as the sensible Bomber (lifted from his wrestling persona) in 1980’s T.V drama Auf Wiedersehen Pet, about hapless recession hit builders “working on a site, from morning to night” in what was then West Germany. 

It was director Stanley Kubrick who gave Pat his first role, as a bouncer in the Korova Milk Bar in A Clockwork Orange. Kubrick used him again as a Redcoat having a messy bare knuckle fight with Ryan O’Neill’s Redmund Barry in Barry Lyndon. But it is his several supporting roles in the Indiana Jones films which have endeared him to fans of genre cinema. Had he not sadly passed away from cancer in 2004 at the age of 67, he would probably have been cast as Russian bad guy Colonel Dovchenko in Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal skull.  As it was, up to then he is the only actor other than Harrison Ford to appear in all the Indiana Jones adventures, and was considered by director Steven Spielberg to be a lucky talisman.

Pat first appears in Raiders credited as a “giant Sherpa” working for the evil Nazi Toht. He has a drag down fight with Indy in Marion’s burning Raven Saloon in Nepal. During rehearsals, Ford knocked him across a table and it broke okay. “But on the take,” Pat recalled to Starlog,the table didn’t break, I did. It knocked me out, and I was on fire. I was supposed to wait as long as I could and then shout, and they were to put me out, but of course, I was unconscious. Billy Horrigan (a stunt man, and Roach’s body double) realised that I was, and he ran on set-in front of the camera-and put me out. So I owe Billy.”

But it is as the imposing bald Nazi mechanic, who disdainfully tosses aside his cap and shirt before gleefully challenging Indy to come down from the flying wing and engage in a fist fight, that he is most remembered (Pat had his head shaved and got a local policeman to vouch for him by signing his passport before he could travel to Tunisia) . He helped stunt arranger Peter Diamond choreograph the fight with Harrison Ford, who knows how to telegraph a punch from the big guy, knees wobbling before collapsing to the ground. Pat’s heavy comes to a grisly end as he forgets the slowly turning plane’s spinning propeller blade – as Indy ducks and covers his face, Pat turns to face the blades, and a cut to a blood splatter on the plane’s tail along with a Ben Burtt sound lab scream tells his fate.

Pat rehearsing the flying wing fight with Steven Spielberg

His next roles in the series were as two different Thuggee bad guys in Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom. His first cameo is as the assassin who tries to kill Indy in his room in the Pankot palace, while Willy Scott (Kate Capshaw) paces irritably in her room across the hall, believing Indy’s perceived snub to be him missing out on “the greatest adventure you ever had”.  Pat winds up strangled by Indy’s bullwhip, hanging from the spinning ceiling fan. He was actually offered the job of personal trainer to Harrison Ford by Spielberg on this film, but turned it down, preferring to be known as an actor.

His decision paid off. Pat gets a bigger role as the overseer of the slave children in the mine beneath the palace, gleefully cracking the whip until Indy sets about freeing them. This time around, the fight was mostly between Pat and Harrison Ford’s stand in and stunt arranger, Vic Armstrong.  Harrison had injured his back during an earlier stunt sequence, and had been flown back to Los Angeles for surgery. In the meantime, Vic stood in until he could return for close ups. While Pat got plenty of face time (albeit in heavy make up), Vic’s face was concealed by careful blocking or shot in shadows. Pat again meets a gruesome end, as his turban becomes trapped in the rock crushing machine and slowly drags him up the conveyor belt into it.

Pat also recalled a practical joke played on Ford on the Elstree set. “There was a whipping scene where Harrison’s tied up to a rock. Barbra Striesand came in, dressed in black leather, and while Harrison was chained up to the rock, she took my whip off me and whipped him!  She said “That’s for Hanover Street, the worst movie I ever saw!” And then she whipped him for doing Star Wars and earning all that money. The Carrie Fisher ran in-she was dressed up too –  and she threw herself across Harrison and shouted “No, no no!” And then Irvin Kershner ran in and said, “Steven, is this the way you run your movies? I would never let this happen on one of my sets!” Then Steven said to Kersh, “Get off my set!”

 

In The Last Crusade, Pat didn’t have as big a supporting role, but did play a Nazi who attempts to stop the Jones boys from leaving Germany aboard the airship. In amongst the Indiana Jones films, Pat carved up quite a repertoire in genre films as bad guys, from Red Sonja to Kull The Conqueror, Clash Of The Titans to Conan The Destroyer. He worked for George Lucas again on his fantasy film Willow, as skull face helmeted baddie, General Kael, learning to master riding at the gallop whilst drawing a sword in three days, under the tutelage of horsemaster Greg Powell.

 

 

He had earlier in his career unsuccessfully auditioned for the role of Darth Vader in Star Wars. Instead of “Darth Farmer” we could have had “Darth Brummie”.  It’s interesting to ponder whether if he had been successful, would he have been allowed to voice the character? His accent isn’t as pronounced as David Prowse’s… “If you only knew the power of the dark side, Luke – that’s livin’ all right!”

Originally posted 2013-01-20 13:47:07. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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