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The Calgary Sun

'X-Men' actor portrays Terry Fox
- Kevin Williamson

Save the world a few times, you think you'd be used to playing a hero. But even after roles as a freeze-dried superfreak and mighty magicmaker, Shawn Ashmore admits he's daunted by the next icon he'll portray.

Because this one's real.

"I'm training to play Terry Fox," the 25-year-old Canadian tells the Sun in a phone interview from Toronto. "For me, it's an amazing opportunity. It's something I feel very strongly about."

The CTV movie begins filming this summer. Fox, of course, is the young man who 25 years ago ran across Canada in a single-man marathon to raise money for cancer search. He'd already lost one of his legs to the disease and crossed the country on a prosthetic limb.

"I was born in 1979 so my first memories of him are from grade school after he'd passed away," Ashmore says. "It was interesting for me to go back and discover things about him because by the time I was aware of him, he was already this legend. But he was just 22 years old when he did this -- he was a young guy. It's pretty amazing going through all of this, talking to his family and learning about him. He was a great man.

"I've spoken to Terry's brother, who's a great guy and has been very supportive. I've talked to all the people involved in the run when it happened -- friends and journalists. There's a big group that's helping us out."

Ashmore says to play the part he'll don a green-screen apparatus that will see his leg removed by digital technology.

"There's also a running double for the long shots. And we're just going to be shooting around it as much as possible ... It's a cause and an organization I feel honoured to support ... It doesn't get more iconic than Terry Fox."

After playing Fox, Ashmore is set to return to the role that launched his career -- that of Iceman in X-Men 3. The sequel remains on-track for a May 2006 release after losing director Bryan Singer to next summer's Superman Returns.

"Iceman's back as far as I know. There's a start date sometime this summer, but I don't know the details. As far as I know, everybody's back. So it's pretty exciting."

Replacing Singer is Matthew Vaughn, producer of Snatch and the director of the forthcoming gangster drama Layer Cake.

So far Kelsey Grammer (as the Beast) and Vinnie Jones (as the evil Juggernaut) have joined the cast.

"It's going to be interesting to have some new blood brought in and get someone else's take on it."

Ashmore nearly reunited with Singer on the Superman movie. He was the director's first choice to play Jimmy Olsen. "It was a conflict as far as timing. It's unfortunate. But I'm so happy to be in the X-Men group. It was a good problem to have."

Ashmore, who has spent the last three years in Los Angeles, owes his career to his role in 2000's X-Men.

"It was a really lucky break. I auditioned out of Toronto. I was only on the set for a couple days -- it wasn't even a week or two. But I was asked back in the second film and built up the role a little more."

For X-Men 2, he received the MTV Movie Award for Breakthrough Male Performance in 2004. "It's a fluke everything worked out... I'm a lucky boy."

For further evidence of Ashmore's luck, look no further than tonight's debut of Legend of Earthsea, a four-hour, two-part mini-series airing at 7 p.m. on Space. The project is based on the award-winning novels A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin.

Playing the requisite callow youth who is destined to become a powerful sorcerer, Ashmore got to act opposite Danny Glover, Isabella Rossellini and fellow Canadian Kristin Kreuk, best known as Lana Lang from Smallville. The mini-series was filmed last year in Vancouver.

"It was an amazing cast. Isabella is beautiful and talented ... and working with Danny was great. It was a difficult shoot -- really long, we shot for three months on location. But it was a fast-paced production, which I really prefer because you don't have a chance to worry about everything. You keep moving. You work on your toes and some real cool things can come out of that."

Ashmore has also filmed two independent movies -- "where there's no special effects or magical spells and nothing's exploding. But part of what I love about being an actor is you get to do these fantastic out-of-of-this-world roles.

"That's the fun of it -- to use your imagination and sink into another world. But it can be a real challenge to get everything together."

The Calgary Sun