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The Junior X-2 Crew
- Lynn Barker

Theyíre 20-something, pretty and powerful and thatís before they don their X-Men super powers. When we sat down to dish with the three younger X-2 stars, Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore and Aaron Stanford, we sensed they had way too much fun making this film. Shawn and Anna were peppy but that could be due to the Red Bull energy drinks they were chugging. The two, who play a couple (Iceman and Rogue) in the film, were flirty and upbeat. Aaron, who plays Pyro, was more introspective. Anna, who was flanked on either side by her two young super-heroes, was putting off a mild ďGothĒ vibe in her black leather jacket and smoky eye make-up. She occasionally fingered the four piercings she has in her upper earlobe and talked about everything from college to not really liking the look of her X-Men action figure.

If these three could choose a super power?: Anna: Teleportation, Shawn: telepathic abilities, read minds and control minds, Aaron: Having answers at my fingertips every day! (Humm, too many press junkets for this boy?).

Anna: And also we had scenes together all the time. All of our scenes.

Aaron: And we hung out with the two writers too, Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, I donít know if you guys have met them, but they are really young writers.

Shawn: It was a very social set on and off, and we had group activities. We set up paintball games and dinner parties, so we all definitely hung out, because six months in Vancouver, you donít really have friends and family there, so youíre forced to be lonely in your hotel room Ė

Anna: As it turns out we have a really great bunch of people, so we really lucked out.

TeenHollywood: Do you think there is an audience for this film outside of X-men fans?

Shawn: I think that you donít actually have to have seen the first film to enjoy this movie. I think itís a fun ride, that main theme of tolerance and acceptance in being an outsider is something that everyone feels, so I think thereís definitely an audience, whether youíre a comic book or action fan or whether youíve seen the first movie or not, thereís definitely things of interest. And itís a fun ride.

Anna: And it looks cool. Itís bigger and cooler than the last one. There are a lot of new fans since the first one, and we can only expect that there will be a whole new bunch of people that were maybe too young three years ago to go and see X-Men, that are now old enough to think itís really cool.

TeenHollywood: Anna, what was it like to come back and do this role again, after three years? You were 17 and youíre 20 now.

Anna: Itís completely surreal, because after the first couple of days of shooting it feels like you never left. So by the time we were finished it was like a full year of X-Men. Itís really nice to get to work with some of the same people, because Iíve been doing this for eleven years and itís only in the last year that Iíve ever worked with some of the same people on other projects. You hardly ever do that. So getting the entire cast reassembled, the director, the whole team, and then new and fun people to work with, was really good, familiar and comfortable.

TeenHollywood: Are there any cool outtakes for the DVD?

Shawn: We all had our moments. I think thereís probably a montage of all of us reacting to explosions and running.

Anna: Thereís a lot of me screaming, because thereís an explosion every five minutes, or there is someone pointing a gun at your head every five minutes. These two guys are real professionals and can scream and looked frightened. Bryan Singer [director] figured out that the level of fear on my face when he shot a full load of a blank gun in the air or a bullhorn right next to my ear apparently was not appropriate, but really funny to him. I startle very easily and he found it really funny, so he did it a lot.

TeenHollywood: Aaron, we arenít sure whose side Pyro is on in the movie for a while. Is that like the comic book?

Aaron: I donít think he turns, I think heís just a bad person from the beginning. Heís born bad; heís a villain. In the comic book he doesnít start off in Professor Xavierís school. He comes in and heís a professional criminal/pulp novelist and heís 35 years old, so they changed it entirely. They really brought him in because they wanted the fire and ice dynamic between iceman and somebody else.

TeenHollywood: Did you ever burn yourself doing the stunts?

Aaron: Yeah, I have a scar from it. (he shows us). They blew up all those cop cars in front of us. They had one cop car totally carved out, and they had a one thousand pound giant steel flywheel in it and it spun around and they had these brakes to seize it up so that the car would spin, so when it popped up in the air the car spun around 360. It was amazing. There were huge explosions, all the stunt men got burned.

Shawn: Thatís pretty much the norm though. Any stunt that looks amazing, someone gets really hurt. Whether itís extreme or not, they are actually being ratcheted across the lawn and hitting trees as the explosions are going off.

Anna: But they come to work the next day and everyone is going, ĎAre you okay?í And they are really tough and cool about it, and they make everyone else feel like big babies.

TeenHollywood: Does an action film like the require more or less acting skills?

Aaron: You try and work as much as you can, you try to provide as much humanity that you can to it. You have you try to squeeze in as much as you can into every moment. Itís just a fact that a movie like this, the majority of the time youíre going to be running away from explosions and screaming to ĎGet down.í Itís not always going to be as demanding as a drama.

Shawn: I think the real challenge is keeping up energy and keeping it real. You watch Ian [McKellan] and Patrick [Stewart] and Brian Cox, the majority of people there, they are just so dedicated to their parts, even though itís fantasy and is kind of funny sometimes. So as an actor I think you have to sell yourself a little more that youíre in this fantastic situation and it is just an adventure, but to make it real, believe itís real and go into looking at it like that. That takes a little more work maybe than in a smaller character piece.

Aaron: Itís really difficult and challenging to bring a level of commitment to something that is fantastical, and to convince yourself that itís really happening, and really go for it.

TeenHollywood: What is it about X-Men that so many people respond to?

Aaron: I think one of the main themes in X-Men is that you have all these characters who feel like theyíre outsiders and freaks, who are going through their formative years and they feel really awkward and outside of the mainstream. I think a lot of people feel like that, especially the comic book audience, younger people, tend to feel like that a lot. You project these insecurities you have onto these characters who have these fantastic, amazing powers and they can go and fight villains, itís pretty attractive.

TeenHollywood: Anna, youíve had an incredible career. You won an Oscar as a child. How did it change your life?

Anna: I had never worked or acted in my entire life before The Piano, so it was not like I had anything to compare it to which is very strange, because itís not usually the way your career works. Iím very lucky, because I get to do what I like to do, and people knew that I existed. And I didnít know that I liked acting until I was probably 15. Before I thought it was really cool because I got to skip school and go away and play dress-up for four months at a time. Itís the strangest and most amazing thing thatís happened to me, itís very random.

TeenHollywood: When did you decide to do it for a career?

Anna: Around 15, when I was doing Hurlyburly. It was the first time Iíd ever read a script where I had to get a dictionary out and look up half the words. Usually you read a script and say, ĎOkay, well thatís not stupid.í This was like incredibly brilliantly written, dark, satiric, and it was intense and very wordy and I literally was like, ĎWhat?í and I had no idea what they were talking about for six big long segments. And all these people were attached to it already, Sean Penn and Kevin Spacey, and it would take an idiot not to figure out that that was a nice team to get to play on. And then just watching them work.

TeenHollywood: Do you plan to go to college?

Anna: Iíve done a year. Iím getting a bit here and there. Itíll happen eventually. At Columbia, for the first two years you do a lot of different classes in different disciplines and then you pick a major and Iím probably going to be an English major. Iím just getting required classes out of the way. Like you have a P.E. requirement and math requirement and all these things Iíd rather not do.

TeenHollywood: Why is it important for you to go to college?

Anna: Because I donít think, as an actor who is trying to understand other people and appeal to a wide range of people in terms of human experiences and emotions that just living from movie set to movie set or in a big city like New York, youíre going to have enough things to draw on. Thereís so much to be offered by education. How are you going to play someone who is supposed to be well-educated if youíve never read a book in your life? I just think itís important not to be boring. You should try to expand your mind in some way and not get stale.

TeenHollywood: Besides his great parties, Sir Ian McKellan must have taught you something. Did you talk to him and Patrick and Brian about acting?

Aaron: I donít know too many actors who like to talk about acting, to be completely honest. Being on set, just watching people work, I think is the easiest way and most effective way to learn about acting. To witness it is the easiest way to learn. I think we all watched everybody work.

Anna: If you pay attention, you just absorb aspects of the way they work and the way that they approach things. Itís the best acting lesson you can ever have is watching someone amazing doing it. Itís a master class.

Shawn: One of the things to learn is a great sense of humor about oneself all the time. They were a lot of very playful actors who stayed very loose.

TeenHollywood: Each of you. What is your anti-drug in life?

Anna: Exercise, ballet.

Aaron: Literature. I really like to read.

Shawn: Music keeps me happy. Mostly listening. That sort of adjusts my mood. You wake up and want to get in a good mood, put on music. I find that fun on sets, crank up your music. That really influences the way my day will go, especially when Iím working. Iím into everything from blues, hard-rock to hip hop. Music for different moods.

Anna: I do that as well. I used to play the cello so there is lot of classical stuff that I was exposed to.

Aaron: I love music but I was born with absolutely no talent to create it. My brother is a composer. But I love to listen.

TeenHollywood: The X-Men movies play a bit with the ages of the comic book characters. Anna, you are younger than Rogue?

Anna: I gather, because I read some really nasty internet sites right after I got cast in the first movie, where some people were talking about the fact that Rogue was supposed to be in her late twenties or early thirties. So thatís cool but as Shawn said, they canít all be the same age otherwise as one set of characters retire from active duty for X-Men, the next generation has to come through, so you need the different ages. And also the comic book never really specifically explores exactly where all these characters start from, itís hinted at, you get these brief sketches, so they just decided to flesh that out. The first one was more like the prequel to her in the comic book, so that makes sense. But it makes sense that she needs to have some buddies. So if you age all of us down, that works out.

TeenHollywood: Did you actually streak your hair?

Anna: Yes. I only had it in the first movie for one scene, so that was a hair piece, which took three hours to apply, so I decided in light of that, that I didnít want any part of hair pieces for the second movie. So they bleached the hell out of my hair for four months.

TeenHollywood: You didnít like your Rogue action figure?

Anna: I sent it back about 15 times more than anyone else, because it looked nothing like me. First of all, itís really awkward to try to tell someone that I think Iím more attractive than youíre making me. Why is it so ugly? And it was really freaky looking actually. They made her pigeon-toed, which wouldnít be so mean if my knees didnít slightly turn in, because Iím flat-footed. I thought they were kind of making fun of me. So thereís this really awkward looking photo on the box of the prototype.

(At this point, the guys go ďawwwwwwĒ)

Shawn: I havenít actually held mine, but Iíve seen it on the internet. Itís pretty amazing Ė itís just creepy that thereís this little plastic toy thatís going to go around that looks like you.