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The Star

Telling The Iceman to chill out is risky
- Rita Zekas

Forget love means never having to say you're sorry.

That old saw might have worked with Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal in Love Story but it doesn't cut it with Anna Paquin and Shawn Ashmore, the scar-crossed lovers in X2.

Love hurts. And maims.

In X2, Rogue (Paquin), who has a schoolgirl crush on Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), is still pursuing her relationship with classmate Bobby Drake, a.k.a. Iceman (Ashmore), and her uncontrollable power to drain the life force from anyone she touches keeps it maddeningly chaste.

She is literally the kiss of death.

Bobby/Iceman might be able to lower his body temperature and radiate intense cold, but Rogue could render him into permafrost.

So, can Bobby and Rogue ever do the nasty? Can they consummate the relationship? "We're working on it," laughs Ashmore. "As Rogue becomes more mature, she'll have more control over her power. So maybe we'll have little baby ice cubes."

The Iceman is a hottie. The Vancouver native is a six-footer and even better looking in person, a Dawson's Creek kinda guy with a realistic vocabulary.

"I love the tension between them," he continues. "They can't be as close as they want."

Iceman is a fun guy to have around at parties. His options are endless: You'd never run out of ice for cocktails and the beer keg would never get skunky. He could freshen your drink without getting up to go to the fridge.

Ashmore's character has been given an upgrade from the first film into a junior X-Men action hero. In X2, Iceman saved Wolverine's butt from sure death at the hands of dastardly William Stryker when his henchmen attacked Xavier's School for Gifted Children.

What if Ashmore could write his own storyline?

"I would love to see Pyro (played by Aaron Stanford, a character who can manipulate fire) build on the fire and ice. Iceman could create an ice bridge, a structure he can slide along but that is beyond him now."

It was up to telepathic and telekinetic Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) to save the mutants' blue and white skins this time around. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (Mystique, the shape shifter) and Alan Cumming (Nightcrawler, a mutant who can teleport himself from one place to another) are bright blue.

"They were The Smurfs on set," Ashmore chuckles.

Putting his character's potential on ice was okay by Ashmore. It was enough for him just to be asked back for X2. "That was a thrill," he allows. "I never expected anything. People were talking but there was nothing solid mainly because we didn't know which characters would be brought back. But I knew there was this relationship building between Rogue and Bobby."

Yes, Bobby was sniffing around Rogue in the original.

It's probably good that they don't get to do much smooching given the time involved shooting that one perfunctory kiss.

"Kissing is uncomfortable because there are 30 people around filming and there are complicated special effects," he allows. "You are face to face and an inch apart for 15 minutes and you have to keep it loose. I had a cold on that day and I was trying to keep from giving it to Anna."

How appropriate. The Iceman has a cold.

Ashmore has been acting for 10 years. He grew up in Toronto and got his big break back in 1994, when he landed the lead in the TV-movie Guitarman, for which he was nominated for a Gemini Award.

At 17, he played Jake on the Nickelodeon series Animorphs; at 19, he had a starring role in the Disney series In A Heartbeat. He has guested on The Outer Limits and Smallville and just before he was cast in X-Men, he shot a pilot for his own series Aces, in which Daniel Baldwin played his father.

Ashmore claims not to know whether there will be an X3 but they have a contractual option for one. "We have to wait and see," he hedges.

Until he gets the call, he just wants to keep working. "I would like to make smaller, indie films that are dark and character driven," he explains. "I've done the big action driven feature."

That said, he is pumped to have his own Iceman action figure.

"It even looks like me."

Ashmore was familiar with the X-Men comic books before he was cast but he wasn't a rabid fan.

"I was aware of the story and how the characters interacted," he says. "Once I got the part, they gave me a box set from Marvel and an X-Men encyclopaedia. We had access to everything. There is a set story but this film is different from the comic because we have changed mediums. For one thing, Bobby is much older. I am playing 18 (he is actually 23) and just finishing high school."

Ashmore was surrounded by acting superheroes including Academy Award winner Halle Berry (Storm); matinee idol Hugh Jackman; Oscar nominee Ian McKellen (Magneto); and Patrick Stewart (Professor Xavier), Shakespearean actor turned Star Trek icon Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Over whom was he most starstruck?

Ashmore takes the diplomatic route. He is after all, Canadian. He's polite.

"Meeting and working with them all was a thrill but I have to say that meeting and working with Ian McKellen was awesome. I am a huge fan of Lord Of The Rings (in which McKellen plays the wizard Gandalf). It really raised the bar I didn't want to be the weak link."

The best thing about Ashmore is that there are more like him at home.

He has a twin brother, Aaron, who is also an actor. In fact, they used to come on set and try to put one over on the other X2 actors.

Funny, they managed to see right through them.

The Star