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The National Post

The Iceman Returneth

Sometime Torontonian Shawn Ashmore shows off his powers in X-Men: The Last Stand

Shawn Ashmore has seen his role in the X-Men franchise grow from a bit part in the first instalment. The third answers his question: 'When do I get to freeze something or get into a fight?'
- Bob Thompson

Toronto's Shawn Ashmore let his patience pay off.

He had a glorified X-Men cameo in 2000 portraying Bobby Drake, also known as Iceman. Then he showed up in X-Men 2 with more to do and a hint of more to come. And now he's arrived as a co-star and force to be reckoned with in the third, and some say final, X-Men feature, called The Last Stand.

Opening Friday theatrically after making a big splash at Cannes Monday, the Brett Ratner-directed special-effects actioner deals with the turmoil following the announcement of a cure for the mutants who still live among the concerned non-mutant global residents.

Too bad the issue forces a showdown between mutant leaders Professor Charles Xavier (Pat- rick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen). Returning from the dead to complicate matters is Jean Grey (Famke Janssen).

Back in a more conventional sense are Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Storm (Halle Berry), Cyclops (James Marsden) and Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) -- not to mention Iceman's love interest, Rogue (Anna Paquin).

New to the X-Men film series are Beast (Kelsey Grammer), Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) and Angel (Ben Foster).

Sure enough, the latest film of the comic book series is the biggest, boldest and most expensive yet, costing more than US$150 million. And yes, Ashmore likes the latest edition best because his Iceman finally confronts Pyro (Aaron Stanford).

"I remember thinking before that I was happy just to be a part of the team in X-Men 2," says the 26-year-old at Toronto's Four Seasons Hotel recently. "But then I said to myself, 'When do I get to freeze something or get into a fight?' "

Back in 1999, he remembers only being an anxious 19-year-old Toronto-based actor, pleased but a little intimidated about auditioning for the Iceman role. "And even when I finally got the first one," he recalls, "there was no guarantee I'd be in the next one."

Born in Richmond, B.C., Ashmore has a twin brother Aaron, also an actor. Both began commercial work at the age of 10 while living in Edmonton. The Ashmores eventually moved to the Toronto area.

At 14, Shawn got the industry's attention with his role in Guitarman, which earned him a Canadian Gemini nomination. Telefilms and cable TV series followed but his successful audition for X-Men sealed the deal and jump-started his career.

Turns out that original X-Men director Bryan Singer was as loyal as he was intuitive about Ashmore's talent: He received the 2005 MTV Movie Award for Breakthrough Male Performance for his X-2 role.

In fact, Singer appreciated his abilities so much he offered Ashmore the role of Jimmy Olsen in Singer's Superman Returns, which is set for a June release. Unfortunately, Ashmore had to decline because of scheduling conflicts, including filming Ratner's X-Men 3. (Singer had passed on directing X-Men 3 so he could do Superman Returns).

After seeing the X-Men 3 finished product, Ashmore says he believes he made the right choice. Not only does he get his wish to do battle as Iceman on screen, his alter-ego, Bobby Drake, figures in a lot of dialogue that helps move the narrative along.

Although he insists he didn't measure how much more screen time he gets. "I didn't have a stop watch when I saw it, I swear," says Ashmore, smiling at his joke.

He can admit this though: The six-month Vancouver shoot last year went too fast. "I knew this film was special, so I was trying to process and remember everything," he says. "But it went by just like that."

So would he return in another X-Men, or a possible spinoff?

"I haven't heard any plans," Ashmore reports. "I've heard rumours, but I really don't think they can make X-Men 4. It would be too difficult to get everyone together again."

Meanwhile, Jackman has already confirmed that there will be a Wolverine prequel. "I'm a producer on it," says the Australian actor. "It's probably going to be a prequel. We've got two drafts and we are writing a third one, which will be the final draft."

Any other X-Men characters reappearing? Iceman, for instance? "I'm not going to count anything out, but I'm not going to tell you anything either," says Jackman, smiling.

Either way, Ashmore's thrilled with his triple-threat X-Men experience, a major career break that Jackman says he can relate to.

As far as Ashmore is concerned, the Iceman role has been an opportunity which gave him his career, which in turn led to his role of a lifetime.

"There is something to be said for doing a big blockbuster early in your career," Ashmore says. "But I don't really think these X-Men duties are acting pieces."

In his mind, there will always be another portrayal that stands out during his first phase.

"I got to play the part of a lifetime when I played Terry Fox," says the actor, referring to a made-for-TV movie, Terry, that aired last September. "I still can't fathom what a big deal that was for me.

"There are very few projects [where] I can look back on and feel good about everything in it, but that was one of them."

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