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Shawn Ashmore
- Harry Kaplowitz

Some may say that people probably don't know who Shawn Ashmore is. He's not the kind of celebrity that gets stopped as he walks down the street and that his list of recent credits reads more like the run schedule for a Friday night on the Sci-Fi Channel.

But by the end of the summer, those people may realize how wrong they are!

The 26-year-old Canadian-born actor has been involved in the X-Men series since its inception in 2000. Then director Bryan Singer methodically crafted Ashmore's character — Iceman — through to 2003's X2: X-Men United.

When X-Men: The Last Stand hits theaters on May 26, audiences will see Ashmore's fleshed-out on-screen persona, one he feels that audiences will enjoy and connect with on multiple thematic levels, especially his characters relationship with Rogue, played by co-star Anna Paquin.

"For me, I think sort of the staple of Bobby's character in the X-Men movies has always been Rogue, so obviously that was sort of a relationship that is ever-evolving," Ashmore said. "They have this relationship where no one is fully satisfied, so I mean, that was a relationship that I sort of find interesting — it's kind of a tragic romance."

The latest film in the series proposes that a cure for mutancy has been developed, and thus the battle lines have been drawn, pitting the X-Men against a Brotherhood of mutants led by the malevolent villain Magneto, played by Ian McKellen.

But according to Ashmore, the new film is more than just battle scenes and eye-popping visuals — there's a message to be found in new-to-the-series director Brett Ratner's film.

"I think the theme of tolerance and acceptance and being different is sort of what the X-Men have always been about, and it continues to be," he said. "What I thought was interesting about the cure is that it sort of puts the decision into each character's hands — it's not like the evil Brotherhood versus the X-Men — that's not really the issue. It's not black and white as far as the confrontation and the differences in the characters."

Ashmore also said that the film explores a more tangible psychological middle ground than Singer's previous two films had done.

In essence, the previous two installments were merely setting the stage for this final chapter.

"I liked it because it sort of blurs the lines between who's right and who's wrong in this situation, and there's a lot of gray area," he said. "I think the themes sort of remained the same, but the thing that was interesting to me about the cure is that it blurs the lines between right and wrong as far as making these decisions."

Despite the intensity of Ratner's film and screenwriter Simon Kinberg's script, Ashmore said his experience on the set of X-Men: The Last Stand was more fun than anything else. Particularly fun for Ashmore, he said, were the stunts that he performed.

"It was great, and it was a lot of fun, but obviously you trust those guys and they know exactly what they're doing, and they do show you what you're going to be doing before you end up jumping off anything," he said. "I survived, and I didn't break a leg or shatter anything — it was pretty wild."

Giving his body a rest from the stunts and press junkets of the X-Men series, Ashmore is awaiting the release of his newest film, 3 Needles, directed by Thom Fitzgerald. But the film, Ashmore said, doesn't have a release date just yet.

"It's basically a story of three different cultures on three different continents and how they deal with AIDS," he said. "I basically play a like a B-level porn star in Montreal who's stealing his fathers blood to pass tests and continue to work in the industry."

He's not in comic book land anymore.

"It was an interesting character. The thing that was really difficult about it is that he's not a bad guy; the only thing he's ever been good at is sex," Ashmore explained. "He was in doubt and there's a redeeming quality because he's not the brightest, and that's how he survives — that's the only thing he kind of holds onto."

But despite a top-notch cast — including Chloλ Sevigny, Lucy Liu, Stockard Channing, Olympia Dukakis and Sandra Oh — Ashmore still had reservations about playing the part.

"When I first got it, I said, ‘I'm not really sure if I feel comfortable playing this guy. I mean, he's in his underwear half the time and I'm self-conscious — I'm kind of a skinny white guy," Ashmore said.

"But he said, 'You know, that's not what it's about. It's not about this big, buff porn star. He has a gift, and that's what it is — it has nothing to do with your physicality or anything like that,'" he continued. "I trusted him and he made me feel comfortable in the part and the idea of playing that, so it was sort of that discussion with him that sort of really helped me."

Despite the heavy undertones, Ashmore did say that his segment in the film is actually one of the more humorous ones after all is said and done.

"There are some pretty ridiculous things that people do to make it happen," he said. "I think it's a really interesting film and it's important and I think it's an issue that people have been talking about for years, but it deals with it in a very sensitive way.

"And it steps back, and you see it from all sorts of perspectives, which is great."

According to Ashmore, a directors cut of 3 Needles was received well by audiences at the Toronto International Film Festival, but that Fitzgerald will re-cut the film before it is released in the United States.

As for the X-Men series, though many people expect the upcoming film to be the last in the set, Ashmore is holding out hope that there might be more to come in the near future.

"I mean, it's a difficult process, and it takes a long time with all the effects," he said. "I'd be excited, personally, if they decided to do it. Whether that happens or not is a completely different story, but I'd look forward to it for sure."