MINI x MAUL COSPLAY.
Ben Bergmann is one of the world’s best known cosplayers. Whether flying over the Rhine as Superman, playing his principal character in the YouTube fan film Darth Maul Apprentice, or appearing as ‘Emmett the Scientist’ at gamescom 2023, Ben has taken on a number of roles, causing quite a sensation in the process. Yet what exactly is behind the idea of cosplay, a portmanteau word combining costume and play? And how has Ben himself become a cosplay icon? This is his story.
EVERYONE IS A PLAYER.
We all play a role. As a daughter or son. As a wife or husband. As a mother or father. Very few people are aware that it happens automatically. However, some people also consciously create characters. Real characters previously known only from stories, who people later learned about from books or saw in films, and who were ultimately brought to life in the world of video games. Nowadays, both the media and the channels, not to mention gaming, are much more multilayered. Whether real or digital, the possibilities for creating characters and slipping into a role are almost endless.
In the cosplay universe, role-playing takes on a meaning of its own. Ben Bergmann, better known as Maul Cosplay, is a hero within. His ability to bring fantastical characters to life isn’t just an art form in itself. It is, in fact, a real passion for him. That’s because Ben’s costumes bridge a gap that remains hidden from any outsider. They combine the laws of our world with those from the gaming sphere. If, for example, a belt buckle has been designed the wrong way around in a game, he will do the same. In short, Ben is very particular, applying himself to his costume with the utmost care. For him, it is something that goes without saying.
ANYONE CAN BE ANYTHING.
Ben’s first appearance as a cosplayer came about by chance back in 2004 – thanks to his sister. When the person who was actually supposed to be accompanying her to a convention dropped out, she persuaded Ben to spontaneously transform himself. The cosplay superstar can no longer remember the name of the event. But he definitely remembers the very first costume he wore on that day: it was the outfit worn by the legendary film character The Crow. Ben had no reservations when he encountered this new scene; his passion was instantly roused.
‘That is the great thing about cosplay: anyone can immediately be anything,’ says Ben, looking back with full conviction. He finds his creativity – and a home for his identity – at the point where the boundaries of reality blur. This is the world in which he is free to express himself. A world that is as varied and changeable as the models from MINI. ‘My first car was a MINI,’ recalls the 43-year-old. He considers MINI to be far more than just a car. The brand is a symbol of the freedom he has to follow his own path – a path that is as individual as his costumes.
The fact that he has been able to pursue this path so successfully was also due to a fateful encounter between Ben and Ray Park, better known as Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode 1. The meeting with the charismatic actor and stuntman impressed him so much that he not only chose his stage name as a nod to his role. It was also Ray who encouraged him to enrol at stuntman school. Looking back, it was a wise decision. After all, Ben’s training provided the perfect basis for his present physicality as a cosplayer. It didn’t take long before he was even able to embody his idol in a fan fiction film – his first ‘real’ cosplay role as Darth Maul, in a custom-made costume. The start of his legend.
In the years that followed, Ben always took his lead from existing characters. Until, having built up a wealth of cosplay experience over the course of 20 years, he created his own alter ego for MINI for the first time: Emmett, the Scientist. The character was brought to life especially for his MINI commitment as part of gamescom 2023, the world’s largest trade fair for computer and video games. In his role, Ben proved to be the perfect complement to the MINI trade fair presence: as a futuristic developer, he worked on the cars of the future in the ‘MINI Lab’.
DESIGN COSTUMES, BUILD COMMUNITIES.
By wearing costumes, Ben is always playing new roles and thus bringing characters to life. This is how he tells stories that have otherwise only existed in the imagination of video games or films. ‘If you’re a character, you’re already fully immersed in the world,’ Bergmann explains. He goes on to say that you cannot achieve more than that, comparing it to ‘method acting’ among actors. This dedication can be seen in every detail of his costumes, in every thread, in every colour. It is a process of constant refinement and adaptation, not unlike the approach to designing a MINI – always in motion, always in search of the perfect form of expression.
Authenticity is Ben’s most valuable asset, which is also evident in his preference for realistic portrayals. By way of example, he once wanted to be flown through the air by a helicopter for a Superman stunt rather than use a green screen in a film studio. For safety reasons, however, this was not possible. ‘If helicopters are no longer allowed in the city centre, we will just use a crane,’ explains the man with a thousand costumes, for which he is adored so much by his fans around the world. He also has an extremely good instinct for popular characters, which he always transforms into at exactly the right time. For example, his portrayal of Geralt of Rivia, a character from the video game and TV series The Witcher, earned him huge acclaim in the cosplay community, consolidating his connection with a wider audience that appreciates his attention to detail and his talent for authentic transformations.
Ben’s artistic process is a study in attention to detail and devotion. Each of his costumes is a journey – from the initial inspiration to the finished product. Together with his wife, who is known as the cosplayer Maja Felicitas, he designs most of them without any outside help. The careful selection of materials, the detailed rendition of the character traits and the cinematic quality of his costumes have made him an icon on the cosplay scene.
This is where Ben finds the deep connection and acceptance that everyone should feel. ‘The community is fantastic. Very, very open-minded,’ he enthuses. It is this openness that binds them together with the community of MINI drivers. Both share a certain passion for individuality. For the experience of being part of something bigger. Whether engaging in cosplay or driving a MINI. It is about being yourself, finding yourself or inventing yourself. Everyone is welcome here. And you can sense that – as part of a world that is characterised by diversity and acceptance.
SYNERGY WITH ENERGY. MAUL MEETS MINI.
‘The cosplay community always welcomes opportunities to collaborate,’ says Ben. And even more so when people find the costumes interesting. If they have been well done and look appealing. In his view, the collaboration with MINI could not have gone any better: ‘People like new costumes. And they really celebrated this one!’ The connection between Ben – or rather his fictional character Maul Cosplay – and MINI is more than just a partnership between an influencer and a brand, not least because it is based on similarities. On values such as creativity, individuality and the constant pursuit of progress.
Ben’s appearances at gamescom 2023 or the IAA 2023 were therefore no coincidence, but the logical consequence of creative synergies. For both Ben and MINI, the focus was on an artistic vision and the ability to keep on reinventing themselves. ‘That is why it is such a good match,’ says Ben. Because he lives and breathes every character he portrays – no matter how many of them there are.