He is one of the best known cosplayers in the world: Ben Bergmann aka Maul Cosplay. When the curtain dropped at E3 2018 and Cyberpunk 2077 was shown to the public for the first time Ben and his wife Maja attended the show in matching cosplay outfits for CD Projekt Red. The photos of the professional cosplayers literally went around the globe. In this interview Ben tells us more about this extraordinary project.
Dies ist die englische Version des Artikels - Du kannst die deutsche Version hier lesen.
Cosplay fell into Ben's lap. Originally his sister wanted to visit a convention to cosplay, but all of her friends canceled. Ben jumped in, quickly knocked a The Crow cosplay together, consisting of just a long coat and black & white makeup. Cosplay would change his life fundamentally, but Ben hadn't known this back then.
During a convention the sci-fi fan met stuntman and actor Ray Park, who portrayed Star Wars baddie Darth Maul. Deeply impressed by his conversation with Park, Ben decided to become a stuntman himself and enrolled for the stunt school Actionconcept in Hürth. Ben specialised in combat techniques, finished school and showed his own Darth Maul cosplay with a complete choreography on a convention just one year later. His pseudonym was born: Maul Cosplay.
Because he absolutely loves conventions and cosplay, Ben eventually ran across Maja. They got to know and love each other and even the marriage proposal surprisingly hit Maja on stage after the couple performed a complex stunt show in front of a bigger audience.
The two turned their hobby into a business and focussed on cosplay outfits, stunts, choreographies and walking acts. CD Projekt Red discovered Maul Cosplay after the release of his makeup test for Geralt of Rivia and hired him straight away for several years as The Witcher. Maul Cosplay quickly got internationally known.
More outfits and projects followed and because of that Ben and Maja founded the company Defcon Unlimited. The team creates pure visual magic such as a complete samurai outfit for Naoki Yoshida, Producer and Director of Final Fantasy XIV, as well as cosplay outfits for games like Overwatch, Dishonored ,Metal Gear Solid, The Last of Us, Tomb Raider, God of War, Mass Effect and Mortal Kombat.
I met the Bergmanns in their Cyberpunk 2077 cosplay at Gamescom 2018 for the first time and experienced them as very likeable and down-to-earth. For them, cosplay means to become a very special character step by step and to make people happy with their performance. During their fan meetings at Gamescom they waited patiently until the last fan got his hand shaken, questions answered and photos taken.
Night City Life: Was V your first choice as a character?
Ben Bergmann: We could not choose the characters since V was predetermined.
Since when did you know that your version of V would be featured in the E3 trailer?
It was actually planned like this right from the start :).
How was your visit to CD Projekt Red? How often have you been to their studios?
We have been on-site about five to six times so far and it has always been a cool experience. The atmosphere at the office is always super relaxed, modern and casual. The look is super stylish and you get the impression that every single employee really enjoys working there. It's super exciting to look behind the scenes, of course.
What are the most important steps of your production?
That's a little bit different for every costume. At the outset there is pre-production. What is the costume's structure? How many parts are there? What kind of materials are necessary? Do we need a specialist? How many employees? Then we evaluate the process, the timing and the final deadline.
After that we are ready to go and everyone plunges into work, but we have to change or reconsider things right in the middle of it quite often. You can't really say there is a perfectly controlled procedure since it is totally different from one outfit to another. One aspect is the same with every job: In the end it's always way too stressful :).
Tailoring, 3D models, 3D prints, casting and moulding, paintjobs and weathering - That's part of every project.
(Photos: Courtesy of Andreas Krupa, aka EosAndy - www.eosandy.com)
We individually work together with specialists and in this case Kai, our robot mechanic, took care of the LEDs. There are 150 LEDs in every collar and they need to be wired correctly. I covered the rigid shell, including all technics, with an acrylic glass panel and bonded it with colored foils. The collar was then built into the jacket and it really was quite a tricky business.
It varies a lot, but we do most of the stuff on our own. I 3D printed the protectors on the shoulders, casted them, moulded them in clay, added leather textures, casted them again and moulded them in resin. Then we sticked them into the jacket. The Cyberpunk 2077 costume has so many tiny details and you can hardly see the tremendous effort behind it. Besides that we buy most of our materials online, including shops like Amazon, KauPo or eBay.
Especially in this case there was only one part of the costume, which was not handmade: My shoes. I bought them on eBay for 15€ and dyed them.
(English subtitles available in this YouTube clip)
The collar was definitely quite a challenge. For the first time I had to bend acrylic glass, bond it and mount it properly. The rest was mostly "business as usual", but lots of it. The costume consists of many small parts and you quickly underestimate how long the assembly can take. We really had to work on our nerves, as well, because we just had a few weeks for the whole production.
Compared to your previous cosplays - what was the biggest challenge here?
I always like to call it the "redo costume". We had to redo an insane amount of things, because there was always something, which did not fit or needed to be changed. That's generally the biggest challenge when building a costume: Many designs won't work in reality. When you realise designs for clothes from the drawing board you discover things, you did not notice before. I casted, sanded and polished 150 zipper components. Our dressmaker Nicci had to tailor four new collars. My wife Maja had to completely redo her shoes when they were nearly finished...We really struggled here :D.
We were six people and worked four weeks on the costumes.
Andy is our man when it comes to photos. We quite "grew up" together and we can always count on each other. In my point of view he is truly the greatest cosplay photographer and a good person. I call him not just a business partner, but also a true friend. Some people think he's is living in our basement, but now I have to get this straight: That's not true ;).
(Photos: Courtesy of Andreas Krupa, aka EosAndy - www.eosandy.com)
Mike truly celebrated the costumes. He really is a cool and nice guy and we had lots of fun at the booth. The fans and media were crazy about Cyberpunk 2077. It's no wonder since they waited for so long.
Of course it was extremely cool and a small proud moment for me personally. I got the magazines lying here and one issue includes a giant poster of me. That's still surreal to me.
Ben, how did the Witcher cosplay community react on your more „modern“ look?
They reacted really well. The photos were well received and I absolutely enjoy wearing the costume at conventions.
Well, I can't answer this precisely. Geralt will always be my favorite, but I just did Scorpion for Warner Brothers and I highly enjoyed that, too, I won't pick a side here.
No need to ask - of course!
Thank you very much for the interview!