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The Toronto Sun

Iceman cometh
Another X-cellent adventure for Canuck Shawn Ashmore
- Jim Slotek

Born in Vancouver, raised in Edmonton, living in Toronto, the guy comic book and movie fanboys know as Iceman rightfully has three hockey teams to call his own -- two of which were on ice playing do-or-die Game 7s last night.

"I'm definitely more of a Leafs fan than Vancouver," says Shawn Ashmore, 23, who spent most of last year in Van filming X2, the sequel to 1999's X-Men. "But I'm a bigger Oilers fan. I grew up there during the heyday of Gretzky and Messier and all the Cups."

He was well into Leafs mode, still living at his parents' place in Brampton when the first X-Men was shot in Toronto. The ice-wielding Bobby Drake was an original X-Man when the Marvel comic debuted in the '60s, chronicling the adventures of a schoolful of alienated misfit super-powered mutants.

But Iceman's role in Bryan Singer's first X-movie barely amounted to a bit part.

"I was there for two weeks," he says. "There were two scenes where I did something other than walk through frames." So he had no illusions about being a lock for the sequel. And, in fact, the movie was six weeks from shooting when he was finally asked to return.

'BEST PLACE IN THE WORLD'

What followed was the actor's ritual of getting the script and counting lines. "It was really a nice surprise," he says of X2, which includes an Iceman subplot that sees his girlfriend Rogue (Anna Paquin), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Pyro (Aaron Stanford) crash at Bobby's parents' suburban home.

"I read the first couple of scenes and it was, like, 'Okay, I'm in it.' Then 'Okay, I'm in it some more.' Then I flipped to the back and it was, 'Okay, I wasn't killed off. So it was pretty exciting to read this script for the first time."

The plot of X2 involves a crazed general (Brian Cox) who's out to commit mutant genocide -- forcing evil mutant Magneto (Ian McKellen) to join forces with X-Men leader Dr. Xavier (Patrick Stewart). Five months of filming in Vancouver had somewhat of the same effect for actors.

"It was a beautiful summer; we got rain, like, twice. People were, like, 'Vancouver's the best place in the world!' I said 'You haven't seen the other side of it yet.'

'DINNER PARTIES'

"But we got really close, Aaron Stanford, Anna and I, and two of the screenwriters, Mike Dougherty and Dan Harris. We were all sort of early to mid-20s, so we did a lot of hanging out.

"But everybody hung out. Ian McKellen would throw dinner parties, which were very cool. He had, like, a big piano and Hugh Jackman would sing. There were songs, drinks and food. Y'know, you're away for five months, you can either sit in your hotel room lonely, or you get out and hang with everybody. Ian sort of initiated all of that.

"We had cast-and-crew paintball games. Anna was the most avid player. She'd head out there in her T-shirt because she got too hot in the coveralls. She had welts all over the place, she loved it. She'd get nailed with paintballs and keep on comin.' "

Even the little bit of exposure in the first film changed Ashmore's Q-Factor. "I'd be on the street and people would be driving by going, "Icemaaaaan!" It was quite a bit of recognition for what was, timewise, one of the smaller parts I ever had."

This time around he feels confident about getting the call for X3 (it's a fairly safe bet that there'll be one). The seeds of future plot development were sewn in X2 with the deteriorating friendship between good-boy Bobby and the delinquent Pyro.

"If there's a third, it's gonna be Bobby's and Pyro's turn to have a showdown," Ashmore says. "You know, fire and ice."

The Toronto Sun