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501st Legion Swiss Garrison – Bad guys doing good

Are you a Star Wars fan? Is your heart beating for the dark side of the Force? Would you like to do good and preferably with like-minded people? Then the 501st Legion might just be what you are looking for. The 501st Legion is an international charity organization that impresses people with its movie-authentic costumes and supports international charities with $ 1.2 million in donations. We met Darth Vader of the Swiss Garrison, suitably in the headquarters of the Dark Side in Switzerland – at Cafe Klex in Liestal, which belongs to a Storm Trooper: Florian Bösiger tells us in detail what is behind the 501st Legion, how to become a member – and why it is inappropriate or even dangerous to hug the Black Lord.

Hello Flo, First of all, I would like to know from you what is your job at the Swiss Garrison?
First and foremost, to portray a character and to wear a costume. I do that for three different characters, but two of them are the most popular, these are the two Sith Lords Darth Vader and Lord Starkiller, who is a lesser known character. And apart from that, I’m actually part of the upper management within the command structure, where I’m both GWL – that’s Garrison Web Liaison, where I maintain all web presences, that’s the social media channels, including the pictures of our members on the International website. And in addition I still do the PR job, that’s why I’m here today.

The 501st Legion has been around since 1997, when was the Swiss version founded?
Since 1998, we are the smallest but oldest Garrison in Europe.

And how many members are currently active in Switzerland?
About 82. But we had the most massive growth in the last three years. Because Star Wars has become in again with the new films etc.

Do you notice the increase when you were at a trade fair or an event?
Well, let’s put it that way; people are quickly interested, especially when you see us or even talk to us, but it is a big step between “I would like to do it” and “I do it effectively”. Because it comes with a lot of research, time and effort and often with a lot of money. It’s the smallest part that makes it effective, but events are a good approach because we get in touch with the people there.

Flo Bösiger in his Darth Vader costume

How long have you been part of it?
I’ve been officially part of it since 2016, but before I’ve had contact with the Garrison for two and a half years, meeting people, going to fairs where they’ve been, and trying to get my costume accepted. I had chosen just one of the toughest ones and have therefore also received a few rejections because of small details, which I still had to upgrade later. But now officially as a proper member and headquarters I’ve been there since 2016.

And how did you find out about it and became part of it, by colleagues of yours?
Not really, but when you’re a hardcore Star Wars fan, you’ll eventually get in touch with this organization and find that there are people who go a bit further. It’s not just fandom, they make movie-authentic costumes and become that character. And then it’s all used for a charity, then you just cannot ignore the 501st Legion. There are now more than 13,000 members worldwide, so I believe that sooner or later anyone who deals with Star Wars will stumble over the Garrison.

But I assume that you have not been a cosplayer before, or that in general only a few members were or are cosplayers?
Funnily enough, I was rather into carnival (Swiss carnival). I just liked to disguise myself, but cosplay itself did not really appeal to me, I discovered cosplay only by all the conventions that have come up in our latitude in the last few years. The funny thing is that people often think we are cosplayers, which is not entirely true. Cosplayers can do whatever they want, they are completely free, but we are bound by certain guidelines and rules. On the appearance, on the material and on the dimensions of the individual parts. A cosplayer does not have to do that and can simply do a free interpretation. And you also notice that when someone from the Legion makes a new costume and Just for Fun signs up for a cosplay competition. The people from this genre are often overwhelmed with us. I do not want to say that one is better or worse than the other. It’s like picking up a costume from a movie set that might be highly professional and even metal etc, and you show it, the standard cosplayers at an event or even the jury will be overwhelmed with it, because it’s kinda like in another league. But that’s not bad either, because that’s how I got into cosplay and had a very good relationship to a big cosplayer in Switzerland. We’ve always been inspired by each other because it’s the way you do research and get the materials, it could not be more different, but it sometimes it intersects and complements each other.

Would you be tempted to do something completely different, without so many requirements or is that rather not your thing?
So just for the point to compete and take on a challenge for yourself, what we do is going way further. But I also started making two costumes that have nothing to do with Star Wars and that I’m pretty freely designing to my likes. I’m curious how the feedback will be.

What fascinates you about Star Wars?
Phew, that would be beyond the scope of a whole afternoon. But to put it in a nutshell: First, it’s the longevity of the whole thing, because it has inspired so many people over X generations. The perfect blend of heroic history, family drama with Shakespearean elements and a touch of fantasy and science-fiction, although the fantasy realm is more prevalent – even though it takes place in outer space, it’s definitely fantasy. And the relationship towards the individual characters, it is the classic fight between evil and good and we have both in us, that it sometimes needs only a very slight push to prefer one over the other side – the whole individual development of a person. That a character can fall deeply but in the end can also be redeemed, so it’s a bit of the classic hero story. I think that’s something that is reflected in many good stories and I think that’s the key point that is fascinating. And honestly, just ALL the toys they have, there’s nothing better than running around in the area with a lightsaber and everyone goes: Wow !!

And the merchandise, I especially love that.
I am not so eager on it any more. I’d rather have some good figurines at home and just the merch you need, be it a lightsaber or a blaster, costumes – for me this is merch I can relate to. But Lego and those characters have never been my thing. Rather books and comics, that’s where I’ve invested the most money in the last 20 years.

I think, there’s nothing that does not exist in Star Wars anyway, you could set up a whole apartment with it – does it look like that at your home?
(Nodding) Yes I have a whole room with my collection.

Only one room?
Yes, it’s still a bit scattered everywhere, but the major part is a room into which I’ve stuffed everything.

Do you also buy things that come directly from the movie set?
None of those!

Those are way too expensive. That’s the major reason and we discovered that our self-made items by Legion people have in part better quality than the set pieces. Those often only had to look good for one or two scenes, that also affects the costumes. We build ours so that they live longer and are wearable and have a certain resilience. There were examples of actors checking our costumes and finding them far beyond what they had on the set. We have fans in the helmets, voice control,a power bank and a cooling system and more. Things you just did not do for those five minutes to film a scene – and that’s the difference.

You say you are fascinated by this conflict between good and evil, but you have chosen the evil side, there would also be the Rebel Legion for the good side – why was the bad side more interesting?
Well, my name is Bösi. (laughs) I think it’s like in the movie, the bad guys are just those who leave a lasting impression on people’s minds. They usually have the better weapons, the bigger toys and the better outfits. That’s a fact. They’re usually better organized, and let’s face it, even people who are not into Star Wars know one character hundred percent, and if it’s not the name, they know the face or silhouette – and that’s Darth Vader. Everyone knows him. And that has just a certain recognition value and that was always my personal character, because it actually reflects the classic hero story of reaching the top, followed by the very deep fall, and then being redeemed from the deepest darkness again. And that’s just the perfect hero story. And we, the 501st, have costumes of the dark side only. Or half-dark, sometimes it’s the characters who just work for money, or scum bags, that’s the way to make a slight distinction. But we also work with the Rebel Legion and most of us have both, costumes from both sides. We are also represented with the slogan “Bad guys doing good”.

How much money and work is in your Darth Vader costume?
Well, usually we do not reveal that, it depends, let’s say, a small used car or an average monthly wage goes into such a costume. Time and work vary depending on what you do yourself. You always have the urge to do as much as you can yourself, but there are always parts that you cannot make yourself, because you do not have the equipment or the required know-how or because you have no knowledge of the materials. And Vader is a costume that’s pretty difficult to make yourself.

So a lot of it is purchased?
Yes, but involved are 12 different manufacturers from all over the world and each of them focuses on a single detail. And the interesting thing is that you do not buy such a costume in one go at this accurate level. This is a big misconception that people always think they can simply buy a costume and join us, this will not work. There are exceptions like a storm trooper or an officer where you just need to make adjustments or upgrades. But you cannot buy more complex costumes, where every part has to be just like in the movie.

So I suppose that especially the helmet is difficult to make because of the materials?
The helmet is not even such a thing. It is a fiberglass resin mix. But the problem sometimes is in the details that need to be accurate. And 99% of the available merchandise from Lucas Film or Disney you can buy as a collector, is not movie-authentic. It sounds harsh but it is a fact.

So, are not they looking too closely at the details when creating those things?
Either that, but I can imagine that it would take too much time and effort to make it for an average price for the casual fan. But Lord Starkiller – the second one I did – I actually made 80% myself. Just because I wanted to know it and I was really busy with materials and everything and actually got it done quite well. And now it is the third costume of this kind on this planet that has been approved, so it is very rare and I am very happy with it.

But does that mean that if you do it yourself, you have to do everything from sewing to glueing etc.? It still is a lot of work to get it all done.
Now we would be back at the classic cosplay skills. The good thing is that you often come across the same materials too. There are sometimes things that people question, why do you buy that, but it fulfills the purpose you need and it looks the part

You just have to see what you can recycle.
Exactly, I can give you an example. The second costume, because I needed a lot of black leather and Benz just had a leather sofa he wanted to dispose of, and so I’m now equipped with large pieces of black leather for the next two years. And you know how expensive leather is. So it was just perfect!

I have read that there are four fans in this helmet so you do not sweat in the costume.
Exactly, it has the advantage that I always have a fresh breeze around me, because in the costume it already feels 20 degrees higher than the outside temperature. And it also simply fulfills a purpose, one of the fans is pointed outwards so that the moisture inside is removed and the lenses do not fog up, so I always have a clear view.

And the helmet comes with these fans or did you install it yourself? Which fans are you using?
I have installed them myself. They are PC fans. CPU fans powered by a power bank built into the helmet. But compared to normal batteries or rechargeable batteries etc. it is the best solution. Nowadays power banks last so long and are so small and flat, it’s actually the perfect system. I usually charge 4-5 power banks before a Troop and then the thing is done for me.

How long are you in your costume if you have a Troop?
It depends on the temperature and the presentation time. Sometimes we have to switch because after two or three hours it can become exhausting. The longest presentation I ever did was five hours in a row. With small breaks where I just took off the helmet. That’s actually the maximum. There is one exception, and although «Jede Rappe zählt» (“every dime counts” – annual Swiss charity event organized in December by the Swiss radio / television) in Lucerne. This is the troop I like the most because I am practically nude in the costume and can stand all day at the square and still feel very comfortable. While everyone else around me is freezing. (laughs) That’s a highlight for me, because I can move around freely without shedding a single drop of sweat. And that is so nice.

How heavy is your costume?
That’s a good question, I would say, with all the additional built-in electronics I am now at about 20-22 kg. The weight is well balanced and you get used to it. It is of course a lot of leather and wool and the electronics that sum up to the weight. But I usually only notice it on my back and heels.after a long day.

So it’s not very comfortable.
It is quite comfortable. But the point is, I’m only 1.81 tall and that’s a close call for Vader. With the helmet I reach about 1.86. But now I’ve built lifting soles into my boots so I’m actually running like on high heels all the time, so to say. With those I reached a bit of height and now reach 1.91m, which is still a bit smaller than I should be, but that was the maximum I could get out of it and I just have to suffer a bit.

Now you know how women feel wearing high heels. You have precise rules of how a costume must be like, and then there are 3 different ratings for the accuracy of a costume . Your costume is on level 2 of 3, what else do you need to get to the highest level?
These are just little details I would have to change, one is the seams of my lower gown, that is minimal and barely visible, but they are in the wrong relation to my chest box. That means, I would have to open these seams and re-adjust them. The belt boxes were not accurate, but I’ve been at level 3 for two weeks. But that’s more of an internal thing, a requirement for yourself and for the individual forum groups and detachment of these costumes. There is a subdivision, which group is in which area and that is more for those forums where you get the recognition when a costume is very accurate, but the Legion itself just requires Basic Approval or Level 1 to fulfill the minimum standards.

And who is supervising? Is it necessary to send in a costume for the examination?
Basic Approval and Level 1 for admittance is checked by the Local GML, you have to send everything to them. Not necessarily the costume itself, but good photos, very detailed and preferably in daylight, with a detailed description of the material, where it comes from, who built it or did you do it yourself, etc. And that’s done locally by single garrisons who can let you pass. And everything that is level 2 and 3 is run by the individual forums, where you can enter it for examination. But it is not mandatory. It may be the case when, for example, the old movies were re-released as HD that you suddenly see completely different details that are clearer or with different hues, and you have to adjust all the reference presets again. And you had to do that with many costumes, and of course it’s a task for costumes that are older and no longer meet the current standard, there you have to check again. You will not be banned right away, but the general expectation is that you adjust the details.

The 501st Legion Swiss Garrison is a non-profit organization and you raise money for a good cause. Which charities do you usually collect for, where do your donations go?
It varies slightly around the world, but the focus is always on organizations that deal with children or sick children. In Switzerland, we have actually selected two organizations each year that meet these requirements and have split and donated the money to both. To be fair, one has to say that all the charity work in Switzerland is still in its infancy. What works well in Asia and America, including hospital visits and public appearances, is something that is still very difficult in Switzerland and is still very conservative, strangely. Even large organizations like Human Resource or Foundation Theodora with the clowns, have blocked us systematically a bit for decades or do not want to work with us. Maybe because of the stigma of pop culture on us. Unfortunately, we do not know exactly what it is.

Or because they think it’s not child-friendly …?
Well, Star Wars is already child-friendly. Now when I think back to my childhood and I would be in hospital, I would now also enjoy those characters. I would even go so far as to say that there are many children and teens who can identify more with these characters than with a clown. Nothing against clowns per se … we just always hope that it will change slowly. We’re not allowed to do any more events because of Disney’s rights to Star Wars, but those are actually the big events that brought in a third of the year’s donation money. And that’s just too bad. We do not want to spoil our relationship with Disney and have always kept to their rules, but slowly a certain dissatisfaction is spreading and it is a pity that such obstacles are put in our way.

In contrast to other countries, we have very strong copyright guidelines here.
Yes, but we’ve been doing it for free for 20 years, for a brand. It’s Disney who have changed the regulations a bit, because Lucas film had previously promoted us before the Disney takeover. The biggest Lucas movie parade ever on the Rose Parade 2007 , all those are Legionares and Lucas has always been very supportive of the Legion. Actually, the 501st is an invention of the founder, but at the latest since “Revenge of the Sith” 2005, we are actually part of the film canon. And 2013 at the takeover, it was probably even a topic what to do with this legion. You just have to look at it from the marketing aspect. These are people who run around in unlicensed but highly accurate costumes and portray the characters better than any Disney Park employee and at the same time have 13,000 members with a high military structure & merchandise. And they probably also considered breaking up the Legion, luckily they did not do that. They would have had 12,000 hardcore fans against them and such influence by a fan base is not to be underestimated.

I can imagine that, in the end you do not do anything bad. And you’re actually promoting the brand for free.
It is also a kind of valuation and appreciation of our work and that we invest hours of sweat and blood and money in the costumes. And we even make sure that people and kids enjoy the whole thing, like official Disney events and movie premieres, where we have to move with 20 people in a storage room, then be officially presented to the media and such, and then we sit in the cinema in the front row and cannot really enjoy the movie. It’s always like that, where is the limit, what is valued of what we do, or what is not being appreciated.

So you would like to have the cooperation …
… getting better again. A current example is Legoland. It was one of the biggest events in the world, attended by up to 450 legionnaires from 13-15 different countries. And there were several thousand people over three days in this park to see us, we had a parade and all that. And Legoland also lived on this image a bit over the years. Since Disney wants to push their own parks a bit, but we do not really have any of those in Europe, they have also cancelled this Legoland event. It was a nice event because you had so many people coming in and you’re just the rock star from 9am until 5pm, because everyone wants a photo with you. No matter that this costume is used by multiple people around, it does not matter, because the area is so big anyway. At the same time, it was also a meeting for us, because you simply had the opportunity to have an international get together with so many people from the same association. And the cancellation hurt, just because Disney thought they did not want us to do that any more. And Lego and Star Wars do have a long history together. And one can also say openly and honestly that Star Wars has also saved Lego. Lego was not doing well before their Star Wars toys were produced. And I just do not understand these things, how they can just stop something like this. But we’ll see what the future holds, or it may just be like this for the moment, so it’ll be much more popular after you kept it on ice for a while.

For which events are you normally booked? Can people also book you for a wedding, a birthday?
We’ll do it all too. There it is just that a certain rate is charged for the number of costumes. Usually there are 300 Swiss francs for a presentation by us, whether it’s 3 or 4 costumes or 10, that’s just the minimum charge for us to be there. We do not ask more money for every costume, but just for our presence at the event and that’s all covered and that is the donation rate which then goes 100% into the pool at the end of the year.

Do you pay more if you want a certain costume?
It has been for a while that people thought they pay more for particular costumes, but we quickly stopped that, because it is also unfair to members, as you cannot judge anyone for the costume they chose and enjoy to wear. In most cases people say that they would like to have a Vader and they would like Storm Troopers, simply because they know those characters. But we point out that we also have other costumes, we bring certainly all those that are required, but we usually bring a few more, because otherwise there is no opportunity for those members in their costumes to present themselves.

You are always looking for new members. For example, if I wanted to join you as Jabba de Hutt, what would I have to meet for requirements?
Well, first of all, Jabba de Hutt is not a costume you can wear because it was controlled by eight people in the movie, it’s a bit difficult. And the second thing is that logistically it would be a bit difficult for everyone, as you have never seen Jabba running around, therefore you need to have a car or something. But you would be the first Jabba in the Legion. This costume does not exist yet.

But you also have a remote-controlled R2D2, so you could do Jabba like that, right?
If you want to make an effort to make an authentic Jabba – the original costume has already cost around 30,000 Francs and eight people have operated the character, then go for it! But there are certainly easier costumes than this one, if you want to join us.

And if you choose a simpler costume, what are the rules? What does it take, costume-wise and personally?
Well, a TIE pilot or a Java is certainly the easiest way costume-wise and budget-wise. And personally, you should just have some passion for what you do, deal with the character a bit, and to effectively be an active member, you have to make it to one official Troop a year. Which is not really much. Then you are considered an active member. We also have a member count to explain what you are doing, which costume is still active, your last Troop which happens once a year, and then you can see if people are still active. And I want to point out that a Troop per year is not that much. It’s a hobby and if you cannot even make it once in a year, then you have to ask yourself if it really is the right hobby for you.

How many events do you have in a year?
That varies. Of course there are also some international events, but in Switzerland there are about 5-10 events per year. These are fairs, film premieres, smaller conventions, the Comic Exchange in Zurich, plus two new cons where we are present regularly. The Fantasy in Basel is our house event, the core of our Legion is from the area Basel, Aargau, Zurich.

Do you have any people from French Switzerland or Ticino?
In Ticino we do not have any members at the moment, and there are some in French Switzerland. In Ticino we leave it up to the members to decide whether they would rather join the group in France or in Italy, simply because of the linguistic barriers and because of the long access routes. And there are already some who live in Switzerland but are part of the French group. But that’s up to you, whether you like to join or not. We also have some people from Liechtenstein, Constance and Bregenz, because it is shorter to come to us than to go to Salzburg or Vienna. The funniest combination is one of our oldest members, he is Italian, lives in St. Louis (France), but is a member of the Swiss Garrison.

Which characters are you currently in need of?
That is hard to say. I could say it now from the Vader point of view and with an Imperial touch: we always need infantry, Storm Troopers, the more the better. All the people who look good in masses are Stormies, Javas, you can always use groups of those. But there are no maximum or minimum numbers of costumes. Every costume is welcome, so to say.

You have more than 13.000 members worldwide, are there any contacts abroad, do you meet sometimes?
Special meetings do not exist in the sense. As I said, Legoland was one of those events where we also had dinner on Saturday night and hundreds of legionnaires gathered in a hall to celebrate and eat together. That was one of the most beautiful experiences to date, to be honest. But what is still possible, for example, is going on a holiday to another country and you can write to the local Garrison and in 99% of the cases it’s usually that they come picking you up at the airport or legionaries are writing or meeting you and do sightseeing tours with you; there are even whole Garrison tour groups on Facebook. So, for example, you can announce coming to Thailand and then they organize everything for you, they look for lodgings, they make tours with you and all that. That’s what I noticed when I joined. There is a bhuge network worldwide, because you can easily contact people from all corners of the country, from Alaska to Fiji, who will help you in their country because they are all members in the same club.

That’s really a great cooperation. I think that’s great and you rarely find something like that today. And how is it in Switzerland? Do you also meet with people outside of events?
We actually see each other a lot. First of all, we often have meetings to decide certain things. This is just the headquarters, but we also regularly do barbecues, go for dinner and stuff like that. Naturally not always everyone is there, so it’s hard to get a bunch of 80 people together on one day. But there are also individual groups and people who meet regularly. We’re all in a WhatsApp chat as well, which means you have 93 unread messages in the morning, which is completely normal. (laughs) So we already have a good network. For example, if someone has to move. The people who arrive punctually and in large numbers in the morning to help moving are mostly Garrison people. And that’s great, too, when all you need to do is mentioning in the chat, I’m moving and in the end 10 people of the club arrive. That is very nice.

We are here in Café Klex in Liestal, owned by Sebastian Benz, who is also part of the Swiss Garrison as a Storm Trooper. This place is pretty much like your headquarters.
Yes, unofficially. We did a few parties here, the farewell and birthday of our last CO, who has ran the whole thing for 20 years, which is a long time for someone in this post, but now being 50 he just wants to go easier, which is understandable. And in the last interview we had with Tele Basel (Local TV Station) I met people here as well, they said that it was the unofficial headquarters of personalized evil.

That would actually be pretty cool, you could do such meetings regularly.
Yes, it’s a great location because there are a lot of people from this area.

How does it work if you have an event, do you put it into a forum or do you tell people you need this and that costume to attend, or how does it work?
That would be difficult, we have a Cloud Office account with all our members and in which the events are posted and then you can accept or cancel. And then we check how many accept, how many costumes we have and most of the costumes that are required, like Vader and Stormies, are quickly confirmed. We are currently three Vaders in Switzerland, one in Graubünden, one in St. Gallen and I here, there had been more, and yet we have to look who gets it done. As a rule, we also see that it makes sense locally so that the people who are living nearby can attend those particular events. And that does not really cause any problems, but it can happen that one request is completely impossible or at too short notice so that we have to cancel. And then it may be that these events have to be canceled due to lack of attendance.

And your members usually simply represent one or more characters?
It’s true that every member usually has several costumes. You start with one, but I hardly know anyone who does not want more costumes. And after a couple of years, you’re sitting at home with four mannequins and six boxes, going to events and wondering … what am I going to take with me today … So it’s not uncommon for people to come to a fantasy event with 3-4 boxes and change the costume after a day or half a day. And most of us also have costumes of the Rebel Legion.

Then it does not bother you if someone has joined both?
No, absolutely not. In the beginning on the international level those two were still strictly separated. But it all belongs to the same universe, yet of course people still taunting each other. And if there’s a Jedi running around and some Stormies are out and about, then they’re chasing him or her. One has complained that every time she wears her Jedi costume, in photos she can always be seen handcuffed. But that’s part of it. And it’s also nice, because the Rebel Legion in Switzerland was almost nonexistent until two years ago. There were individual members, but we were not big enough that you could claim that there really is a Rebel Legion Switzerland. But for two years it’s been different because so many members have joined, who are only there or have both and they also created their own headquarters, which has actually emerged from our ranks – and it is nice that Switzerland now also has their own Rebel Legion branch.

You mainly collect your donations at events, are there any other things you can do for collecting donations?
This is a topic we are currently discussing, which is also something that we will look at in the next session. Currently it’s the case that we just collect at events. At least we’re trying to do that, which is still possible by the regulations we get. Currently we are planning a presentation in a museum in Lenzburg, in the Space Museum, a pilot project by which we try to make more regular presentations, just encourage people to donate something there. But this is still a pilot project and we will have to see first if that will work or not.

You had an entire hall at Fantasy Basel, together with the Rebel Legion, the Space Museum and the Project X1.
A reasonable location. (Laughs) It was pro and con. We already had a smaller booth at the Fantasy, a spot in a more central location. This time we spread out in this hall, but we were a bit far out there. And the people who did not attend the panels or take the cosplay contest or wanted to go all the way to the other hall did not come past us.

Or they simply could not find the door, it was not easy to find the entrance.
From that viewpoint the location had its pro and contra. But purely for all the space to spread out sand for the Project X1, which always has these giant gadgets, it was great. But it went a bit unnoticed this year.

So it was not worth it this year?
Difficult to say. There have been good moments when a lot of people came to see the panel or something, but the classic casual customer was missing. That sounds stupid – casual customers, but it’s just like those who just walk around the hall and do not really care about what else could be next door, because it was entirely in another hall. It was an attempt this year and we are thankful that we could be there. We would never complain that we were not satisfied. But the amount of donations always depends on where you are located.

At these events, people always want to take pictures with and of you, don’t you ever feel annoyed?
This is why we are existing. We are there for that. After a few years you are so experienced that you really are like that and say, now let’s take are 5 more pictures and then that’s it, and I run away and I do not care. For example, in Legoland we had to do that sometimes because you just can not get away, no chance.

So you can take a break.
Exactly. And when it’s 27 degrees, you’re standing out in the open in that costume, it is not that easy, which is something people do not notice and do not understand. The only thing that really bothers me when you take a break and it’s obvious that you’re taking a break when you’re eating or smoking or something, that you cannot come and ask “can I take a picture”. Sure, sometimes I say, I’ll be right back, but there’s an unwritten law that you just do not do that. When people have a break or are half-costumed, just leave them alone. We usually stop this by regulating that you cannot be in half a costume out in the open, we only go out fully dressed, with a helmet etc and therefore go back into our dressing room, and if you come out dressed in normal clothes, people always leave you alone.

It also seems to me that people are sometimes quite disrespectful.
We certainly have less problems because of dressing rooms and maybe it is easier for the men than for the women, depending on the costume they have. If it is a bit sexy, then I find that some people just do not handle it well. We also have two costumes in that direction, Slave Leia and the like, but the problem is also noticed by cosplayers. And this is not OK, it is not about an object – it’s someone who has taken the time and effort to make this costume, just because it’s a bit tight, the cosplayer is not public property. What I can say from personal experience is that there are people who simply underestimate what these things cost. I have to be honest, I already had met people who came and knocked with their fists several times on my helmet. And that causes a shock through the whole costume, apart from the fact that it is not pleasant and you just do not do something like that. I’ve had to say that a few times – it sounds stupid, – I also had to activate my lightsaber and tell them “Guys, if you do not stop now, you get a lightsaber blow into your face!” It sounds stupid, but it was very annoying. I have a shoulder armor made of fiberglass and it is quite sturdy, but if someone hugs me hard, he pushes my helmet on the back of the armor and everything begins to crack – and then I know exactly where I have to fix a crack again. When I tell people, please do not hug me, just stay put or shake hands and then they do it anyway, I’ll run away because it’s too annoying for me. There are simply certain rules of behavior that should be followed.

So you would want a little more respect in dealing with you.
Yes, that’s why we do not do certain events. We were asked for a student party. And there we have to say no, because you have a number of drunks around you, at the carnival it is the same situation. I attended the carnival for years and first I even went in costume to the “Morgenstreich” (special carnival event) – there is nothing better than the lights going out and you standing in an alley and lighting the alley with your lightsaber. And people just flee the scene in an instant. And you stand there thinking; “hey, I’m the boss” (laughs) But it’s risky because there are so many who have no respect for anything, because they can not tell our costumes from a cheap costume.

Some time ago it was announced that a new Star Wars trilogy will come out. Are you looking forward to it?
I cannot speak for everyone, but for me the Disney productions are not that interesting.

I see that many of you are rather fans of the older films.
Yes, many are, but I mean, as a Star Wars fan you would like to enjoy the new stuff, but somehow, speaking for myself, I have no expectations and just wait for it to happen. I just do not hope it’s the trilogy by Ryan Johnson, who thinks he’ll turn around all expectations, but Disney also seems to have understood that. I rather think that it will be the new trilogy of the Game of Thrones creators, of which as a long-time GoT fan expect that it could still be cool. But since the last season I do not really know. Let’s see what happens. I’m personally more excited about the upcoming Mandalorian series, there are lots of good actors and good producers who have proven that they know what it’s all about.

Is there any Star Wars event you would like to experience and attend as a fan? A Star Wars Celebration in the USA. I was already attending one.

Were you at the Rose Parade 2007? No, the video was the reason why I wanted to join the Legion. But this moment, these circumstances, these people – that will never happen again. At the moment, that’s what the Legion is likely to be able to live on for a very long time, but that’s never going to happen again. But I’d like to attend the Star Wars Celebration, which takes place every year or every other year. It is always taking turns, one time in the States, one time in Europe and now there were two in the States and the next will be apparently also back in the States. By now it seems that they just skip Europe. Whatever the reason, as the fan base in Europe is huge. I was at the Star Wars Celebration in London and it was good, but it did not totally impress me. But when I see stuff from the US, I have to say it’s the big deal. I would like to go there. Because over there they have the cool actors, the big stuff and Europe is always only 50% of that.

Do you feel like joining the 501st Legion or to donate to the Garrison of your country? Check out the website http://501st.com to find your nation’s Garrison and the contact info.
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Sandy Mahrer

Fresh Act editor, reports, reviews, photos - - - Favorite genres? - Hard Rock, Heavy Metal and Pop-Rock etc. Less Death, Black, Grind Core