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Calgary Sun

Meet the Fresh-Faced Kids of X2
- Louis B. Hobson

PASADENA -- In X2: X-Men United, the sequel to 2000's hit film X-Men, rival gangs of mutants unite to battle a common enemy.

Producer Lauren Shuler Donner points out "There are three generations of mutants in X2."

Patrick Stewart's Professor Xavier and Ian McKellen's Magneto represent the oldest generation.

The second generation includes characters such as Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Storm (Halle Berry), Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) and Cyclops (James Marsden).

And the new generation mutants are represented by Rogue (Anna Paquin), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and Pyro (Aaron Stanford).

Paquin is happy that Rogue becomes a much stronger character in the sequel.

"In the first movie, Rogue was the damsel in distress. I didn't get to do anything except cry, scream and wear those ridiculously awkward handcuffs," recalls Paquin.

In X2, she gets to save her friends and deal with the hot and cold advances of Pyro and Iceman. "I had so much more fun this time around," she says.

Rogue also has a new fashion statement: A white streak in her raven hair. "I chose to have my own hair bleached instead of having the streak painted in each day. This made it very difficult for me to walk around Vancouver.

"People would scream and wave at me. I got very attached to a blue baseball cap I wore to gain some semblance of anonymity."

Paquin says she was shattered last year on her 20th birthday when someone taunted her for looking like a skunk.

"We were out celebrating, so it was a real downer," she says. "I don't think the person could ever realize how hurtful that comment was."

Though Pyro turns up the heat to get Rogue's attention, she prefers the cool approach of Iceman.

Ashmore, 23, concedes that "It's the age-old idea for movies that girls like to flirt with the bad boy, but really prefer the good guy. I doubt Iceman would get Rogue in real life, but it works for the movie.

"I would gladly have let Iceman lose to Pyro as long as it got me in the sequel. I'd signed a two-picture deal but was told that didn't necessarily mean I'd be in X2. I only got confirmation six weeks before filming started."

Ashmore and his twin brother Aaron have both been acting since they were youngsters. They were born in Richmond, B.C. but have lived and worked in Alberta and Ontario.

The love triangle with Rogue, Iceman and Pyro mirrors that of their older counterparts Wolverine, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) and Cyclops which is resolved in X2.

Forr his part, though, Stanford, 26, is not certain Pyro has relinquished all designs on Rogue.

"Pyro is a troubled kid," he says. "He's misunderstood, which explains why he's attracted to the darker element in the mutant society. He needs the love of a girl to tame him or he could misuse his powers. These are things they'll definitely address if there is a second sequel."

The auditions for the role of Pyro were tightly controlled. Stanford says he was given the scene in which Pyro taunts police trying to arrest him and then hurls fireballs at them.

"There was no dialogue. I was just told to improvise, so I began singing the theme song from the TV show Cops.

"(Director) Bryan Singer said that's what got me the part."

The Calgary Sun