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The Province

X-Men yes, Fantastic no?
The futures of two Vancouver-bound movies still cloudy
- Sorelle Saidman, Special to The Province

The future of Vancouver's two pending mega-budget superhero movies is clear as mud.

Marvel Enterprises told investors this week that the company was "feverishly" working to bring The Fantastic Four to the big screen and that the flick was still on Fox's schedule for a December 2004 release. They also said return of X-Men had not yet been pencilled in for either 2005 or 2006.

Our guess, however, is that the production for X-Men 3 will be underway by next summer while The Fantastic Four lags behind. One hint: a Fantastic Four producer tells us they have neither a script nor a director.

Meanwhile, Shawn Ashmore tells us that he's optimistic that all the X-Men will be regrouping in front of the cameras to fight for the rights of mutants everywhere by next fall.

"It's a big cast to get together," notes the 24-year-old Richmond-born star, who plays Bobby "Iceman" Drake. "But I think it's pretty much everybody coming back. I can't wait to find out what the story is this time."

Sir Ian McKellen, at the British Independent Film Awards Tuesday night, said: "X-Men and its story is about mutants, about people who feel disaffected with society and whom society is hard on. It appeals most to young blacks, young Jews and young gays. That's why I did the movie and that's why I intend to do the third movie."

Backstage, however, McKellen said he would return to the X-Men series "if it happens."

"If my character is in it and if he's my age. They might bring Magneto back but it may be the young Magneto. Who knows?"

Ashmore also confirms reports that Halle Berry is up for weathering another round as Storm, as long as her hours are shortened and her role is lengthened. Berry, like Ashmore, was stuck in Vancouver for almost the entire six-month shoot even though their screen time was minimal -- too many major characters competing for attention.

Ashmore and Berry ran into each other soon after the young actor arrived here to shoot the Nick Cannon film, The Underclassman, for Miramax (which also features X2 alumni Kelly Hu).

"Our production office was at Catwoman's studio space," says Ashmore, "so I just kind of bumped into her on the lot. A lot of the same people crew-wise that were working on X2 are working on Catwoman so it was a nice little reunion."

In The Underclassman, Ashmore is a high school hoops player who plays a lot of street ball -- a skill Ashmore didn't possess until he had to spend six hours a day on the court for the weeks leading up to the role.

Ashmore lives in L.A. and Toronto, and still has grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins living in the Vancouver suburbs. He's more likely to be seen on Granville Island in the morning sipping on coffee, or downtown catching an afternoon movie, than frequenting bars and nightclubs.

This week, he's been hanging out with his twin brother Aaron, an actor who just wrapped the film Prom Queen in Toronto.

The pair heads to L.A. this weekend, where Aaron will have a little R&R while The Underclassman continues filming in a warmer climate.

The Province