Shawn Ashmore news information gallery media print forums main

Scholastic News

Star Spotlight
- Marie Morreale and Paul Coco

Star Stats:

Full name: Anna Helene Paquin
Birthdate: July 24, 1982
Birthplace: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Favorite childhood books: Matilda, The Witches, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Name: Shawn Robert Ashmore
Birthdate: October 7, 1979
Birthplace: Richmond, British Columbia, Canada
Favorite childhood books: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Name: Aaron Stamford
Birthdate: December 27, 1976
Birthplace: Westford, Massachusetts
Favorite childhood book: Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The summer movie blockbuster season kicks off with X:2— a special effects bonanza in which the X-Men must stop a man out to rid the world of mutants. Scholastic caught up with the young stars of the film — Shawn Ashmore (Bobby Drake/Iceman), Aaron Stamford (John Allerdyce/Pyro), and Anna Paquin (Marie D'Ancanto/Rogue)— and got all the details about the film, the stunts, and what it's like to play a mutant. Here's what they had to say:

Q: Shawn, how has your character, Iceman, changed in the sequel?

Shawn: Without giving too much away, he is brought into the fold of the X-Men. He's still a student at the school, and the relationship with Rogue is continued in this film.

Q: Were you a big sci-fi or comic-book fan growing up?

Shawn: Definitely. I used to be a comic book collector until [I was] 17. I have big boxes of comics at home. I was definitely aware of X-Men and a lot of my favorite books when I was younger were sci-fi fantasy stuff: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Dune. They got me interested in reading.

Q: Did you do any of your own stunts in X:2?

Shawn: We're basically doing most of the stunts. There's nothing too major for my character, like falling off a building or anything like that.

Q: What would an average week be like for you on the set?

Shawn: The first half of the movie I was working constantly, and then after that, there are so many different subplots that [I was] not working every day. An average week would be a couple days of work here and there. There were some weeks where I didn't work at all.

Q: What do you do to pass the time when you aren't working?

Shawn: I play on my computer, see a lot of movies, and hang out. I'm pretty good friends with some of the people on the crew and cast, and I have family here, too.

Q: Do you think that being a fan of science fiction when you were younger made you want to become an actor?

Shawn: I look at acting [as] escaping into another world. It's not always fantastic like X-Men, where we're superheroes doing this exciting, fun thing. Even if it's a character that's based in everyday life, it's still an escape [because] you're becoming a character in a new world. That escapism was a draw for me to become an actor.

Q: Aaron, when did you become interested in acting?

Aaron: I grew up doing local community plays. [I] took any acting parts I could because I loved it. I didn't have any idea how to do it professionally, but I went to school for [acting] at Rutgers University in New Jersey. It's like a four-year conservatory-style program. They [would] have showcases at school, where all the students do scenes in front of [entertainment] industry people. I signed with an agent and she introduced me to the Endeavor Agency, and it was a pretty quick process after that. One of the first auditions I went on was [for the movie] Tadpole.

Q: That was your first movie, and it was a very small cast and crew, correct?

Aaron: The whole thing was very small; it was very intimate. By keeping the crew small, we were able to go places without raising any eyebrows. We could shoot on the sidewalk with Sigourney Weaver [and] shoot all these scenes without having to deal with crowd-control a lot of the time.

Q: Now you are in a mega-blockbuster movie. Besides the scope of the film and the special effects, what are the major differences between working on the two films?

Aaron: Dead time. Tadpole was a 14-day shoot, as opposed to a five-month commitment. There was never a second where we weren't working when I was in Tadpole [because] I was in every scene. X:2 is such a big movie with an ensemble cast. There are like 10 main characters. There is this tremendous amount of time when you are not working, and when you are working, you'll have to sit in a trailer for, like, 12 hours.

Q: You play Pyro. Is his power that he can create fire, or that he can summon fire?

Aaron: He can manipulate it. If there is an open flame, he can turn it into whatever he wants. He can make it larger, smaller, or turn it into a shape. He can make a fire monkey to come and throw you around, stuff like that.

Q: Did you do most of your own stunts?

Aaron: There weren't a lot of stunts for me to do. There were some explosions that happened directly in front of me. I am blowing up five cars and everybody is 10 feet behind me with Plexiglass blast shields. They are telling me it is safe, but something can always happen.

Q: Were you nervous?

Aaron: Oh yeah. They make sure everything is safe, but you never know for sure. The bombs have no shrapnel; they are supposed to just make loud booms and big balls of fire, so you hope that nothing goes wrong.

Q: What's it like learning about all that goes on to make the special effects look real?

Aaron: It's fascinating. Pretty much every stunt that you see and thought, "Wow, that was close! How did they make it look like that?" There have been three of four stunts on the set so far where people have come within inches of being seriously hurt. It's not because this is an unsafe set, that's just the way it goes. That's why stuntmen are paid so much.

Q: What did you enjoy most about playing Pyro?

Aaron: I liked that he is kind of an outsider. I like that he doesn't exactly go along with any of the X-Men.

Q: Why do you think reading is important?

Aaron: My mother was an English professor, and my father was in publishing, so there was always a huge emphasis on [reading]. You really can't get by without having a good level of reading comprehension. It helps language skills and communication.

Q: Anna, how is your character, Rogue, different than she was in the first film?

Anna: She's grownup a lot since the last film, where she was sort of withdrawn and didn't interact with anyone else. In X:2, she is part of the X-Men team, so she found where she belongs and can be more active in the things that happen. She is more confident and doesn't feel like she's such an outsider.

Q: When you accepted the Academy Award, you were so nervous that you could barely talk. Were you shy as a child?

Anna: Yes, completely shy. When I was little, I didn't like having to talk in front of people or have a lot of people pay attention to me. I think it's one of the main things that people can identify with Rogue—where you are worried that everyone hates you, you don't really fit in, and you don't want anyone to get to know you too well. I think most people feel like outsiders. The people who you thought were the happiest are often the ones that are having the toughest times.

Q: How did you overcome your shyness?

Anna: Working never really scared me because it is an intimate environment in which you know or get to know everyone you are working with. Because I started so young, it never occurred to me that [acting] should be something to be nervous about. I was like, "Oh, that's just what you do—you show up, you work, you go home, and that's fine."

Q: When you read the X-Men script, what was your first impression?

Anna: I heard about the film before they let me read the script. I [knew] about the people that were already involved, so I was kind of excited. When I read the script, it seemed like it would be a lot of fun because there is action, and a lot of strange things happen that would never happen in reality. It makes your options so much broader for things that can happen in a movie, and it was an exciting prospect.

Q: That's quite a challenge?

Anna: Every film creates its own reality, but when you are working with sci-fi, the extra challenge is making sure that people believe in a reality that doesn't actually exist. You have to make it look like it could.

Q: Did you do your own stunt work?

Anna: I have one physically involving stunt sequence, which I am doing all myself and it's really fun...I am supposed to be falling through the air, flying around stuff, but it's really fun because I love gymnastics, so it's nice to be able to use skills for stunt purposes that have nothing to do with acting.

Q: You're a sophomore at Columbia University. Are you enjoying college?

Anna: Yeah, definitely. I like meeting people in a context that has nothing to do with film, celebrity, [or] fame. You get recognition for being the best scientist or mathematician, and not how famous you are, or how pretty someone thinks you are. I love acting, but it's nice to be able to take a break from it, and school is a great way to do that. You meet people who are good at other things and have had completely different lives.

© Scholastic