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The Gate

Shawn Ashmore: Starring as Iceman in "X2"
- W. Andrew Powell

After seeing X-Men 2 (X2), it's not hard to imagine that this could easily be one of the biggest films of the year. It's got the stars, it's got the mind-blowing special effects, and thanks to Bryan Singer and his cohorts, it's got a fantastic story that is nothing like your average comic book movie.

It also has Shawn Ashmore, the rising Canadian actor who plays Iceman in the film, who also happens to be one of the most down-to-earth people I've ever met - even though he's standing on the cusp of what could be his first year in the spotlight and still seems shocked to even be doing a project of this size.

"I felt really lucky," he said, "just to be asked to come back and work with the amazing filmmakers and actors again."

Just getting the script was, of course, a special affair. "I got a call saying, 'They want to send you the script, but you have to sign a confidentiality agreement before you can even see it.' So, yeah - I just said, 'Okay, I'll sign whatever, I want to see the script.'"

What really surprised him, and to some this may be a spoiler, but the fact that he doesn't get killed off somewhere in the film was a huge shock. "I was like flipping through, 'Okay, I'm still alive, still alive, I'm in this scene. Holy crap, I made it, I made it, I made it!' Umm, and then at the end, you know, I read my last scene I was like, 'Okay, I survived, so it's cool.'"

Cool is possibly an understatement of course, considering he plays Bobby Drake - better known as Iceman, a mutant who can freeze anything around him. But, part of a central theme of the film is a kind of hostile friendship with another mutant named John (Aaron Stanford), who happens to be better known as Pyro - a firebug who can control flames.

Which kind of makes you wonder what the future holds for these two "friends." If Shawn has his way, it looks like the two might face off down the road.

"[I]t's heading that way - that Pyro and Iceman may come in for a battle. That's what I want to see in the third one... I'd love to see a Pyro and Iceman battle - he did blow up my front yard. And a continuing relationship with Rogue [Anna Paquin] - I think I like the tension that they have. It's sort of a sweet relationship, because they really can't be physical but it's not sort of a normal teen 'everything's going to work out' kind of thing."

That's not to say that Shawn thinks a third film is definitely going to happen though. "I think it's sort of premature to say that, you know, there's going to be an 'X3'... it's a big film, but it's also a big summer for movies."

If you missed the first film of course, you might be wondering what this whole movie is even about. The first X-Men mainly set up the cast of characters, which are a group of mutants with special powers and abilities, who are trying to fight off a group of evil mutants. The story is based on Marvel comic's hugely successful series that was created by Stan Lee, and while the first film centered on setting up the story, X2 has a lot more leeway to explore the real story that Lee used throughout the original series - the idea of prejudice and hatred in society. Specifically, the fear of people who are "different."

In Shawn's own words, this all brings events to a head very quickly in the sequel.

"Essentially, sort of the war that is promised by Magneto [Ian McKellen] in the first film sort of comes to happen in this film. So, the stakes are higher, there's an attack on the mansion, and basically the characters are on the run and you know, it goes back to Wolverine's origin and past and basically just delves into, sort of, some of the relationships, love triangles, romance."

Not to say that this film is just a straight, action story. Shawn said that there was "a little more romance in this film," and added, "I don't think the film takes itself too seriously. There's definitely some good laughs."

Although, there aren't so many laughs that the story or the characters ever take a back seat to the kind of ridiculous energy that you might expect if you ever read the comics. For the most part, Shawn thought that Singer guaranteed that with his careful direction, but he was full of praise for the actors, like McKellen and Patrick Stewart, who plays Professor Xavier.

"In a way, this is a fantasy film, and if you don't take the characters seriously, the audience isn't going to take it seriously, [so] it was nice to see their sort of commitment to these roles and I think it set the tone for everyone else. It's like, okay, these guys, they approached the characters as if they were doing Hamlet, or Shakespeare, or whatever, Macbeth... and that was important for everyone to see I think 'cause they're the guys you look up to..."

The only problem might have been the fact that Singer and the screenwriters made sure this film never really settled on any one character for too long, which meant that some big-name actors didn't get as much time in the story as they might have liked.

"I think from day one, X-Men's been an ensemble cast... but that's the thing, there's so many characters and there's so much to sort of cram into [a] 2-hour movie, and I think Bryan Singer did an amazing job and Dan Harris and Mike Dougherty, who are the screen writers, made a story that was complicated and twisting and whatever, but every character had their beats and their moments."

Luckily, there weren't any hard feelings amongst the cast, and Shawn definitely understood why anyone would even care, saying that, "at the end of the day we're all actors - we want to have our characters develop more."

Working with those actors was, what Shawn called, basically the best part of the whole experience. He just felt it was different being on a set with talented actresses like Halle Berry, who plays Storm, who just happens to be talented and beautiful. Weirder still though was Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, who's also talented, beautiful, and pretty much naked throughout the film. Romijn-Stamos plays Mystique, whose "costume" consists of covering her body in blue makeup and a fake skin.

"For about the first five minutes of the day when she comes walking on [set] you're just like, 'Ahhhhh,' and then you sort of get used to it. But I just felt like, I just felt embarrassed 'cause it's like, you know, you don't want to stare, you don't want to make it too obvious," but of course he added "she's comfortable with it - she's totally used to being in the makeup."

Now, with the possible looming success of the film, the only obstacle for Shawn might be the amount of publicity. Iceman is an important character in the film after all and he's onscreen more than some characters. He even has quite a story arch throughout the film, which is definitely a good thing, but now he's not so sure how he, or his family, will handle all the publicity.

"I think they were a little freaked out when they started realizing that my face was going to be on buses and at movie theatres. You know what I mean? That's sort of like, you don't think about that until you're eating lunch somewhere and you're looking at yourself on a bus and you're just like, 'Oh my God.' So, I think that's the part they don't really like, it's like the whole sort of recognition factor, but as for me like, working and enjoying what I'm doing, they love it."

X2 opens in theatres on May 2, 2003. Check out for more details.

The Gate