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Generation X
For X2's young mutants Aaron Stanford and Shawn Ashmore, it's out with the old, in with the nucleus
- Diane Vadino

To leap from relative obscurity to one of the summer's biggest blockbusters in a single bound, you'd have to posses extraordinary talent or uncanny luck. For X2 stars Aaron Stanford and Shawn Ashmore, it may have been a combination of both that landed them in the sequel to X-Men, Bryan Singer's hit adaptation of the Marvel Comics superhero series.

Stanford, 26, had just come off the indie cradle-robbing comedy Tadpole when he was cast as the human flamethrower Pyro; Ashmore, 23, saw his cameo appearance in the original film as frost-tossing Iceman mutate into a featured role in X2. Now, the two newest pupils of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters find themselves sharing the screen with such distinguished costars as Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, and Hugh Jackman, and holding the fate of humanity -- not to mention the film franchise -- in their hands.

"It's totally surreal to be part of this," says Ashmore. "I'm not even going to believe it until I see it on the screen."

Plot-wise X2 sees the good and evil mutants banding together to fight the brutal military leader Stryker (played by Adaptation's Brian Cox), but at its heart the film is still about outcasts trying to fit in -- albeit, outcasts with superhuman abilities.

"I think everyone feels like an outsider at times," says Stanford, who shares an apartment with college pals in New Jersey. "Even the cheerleaders." But as Ashmore, who splits his time between auditioning in Los Angeles and living at home in Toronto, points out, the socially conscious story line doesn't preclude the possibility of lots of explosions.

"There are definitely themes that are important and real issues that link to politics and the environment," he says. "But at the end of the day, everyone has powers -- and can shoot stuff."

Spin / Transcript by Pam