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The Coolest of 'The X-Men'
- Ian Spelling

All joking aside, it’s cool to be Iceman. Ask Shawn Ashmore. The Canadian actor appeared briefly in "X-Men" as Bobby Drake, a.k.a. Iceman, a young mutant who turns everything he touches to ice, and he reprises the role in "X-Men 2," which will open nationwide on May 2.

"It’s pretty amazing," Ashmore says. "It’s fun just to play a superhero, to have the powers. It’s even better to play, in my opinion, a real character, and to have other real characters to play off of in this fantasy world."

Iceman figures far more prominently in "X-Men 2" than he did in the original mutant adventure. This time around he’s dealing with a family that fears his mutant abilities and romancing fellow student Rogue (Anna Paquin), though her penchant for sucking the life force from anyone she touches puts a kink or three in their budding relationship.

For fans of the "X-Men" comic books, of course, such developments never occurred. In fact, way back in 1963, in the very first "X-Men" comic, Iceman was a full-fledged member of the original X-Men team, while it took another 25 years or so for Rogue to put in an appearance. But director/co-writer Bryan Singer had other ideas.

"They went with the backstory instead of just putting me in the costume right away," Ashmore says during a conversation at the Ritz-Carlton in Pasadena, Calif. "I wasn’t really surprised by that, because there’s so much history to the ‘X-Men’ world, and they have to stagger the number of characters they get in there.

"They also need to stagger how they get them in there," he adds. "Bryan and the writers want to have as many characters as possible, without having everyone at the same age and place in their life and just going with that. That would be sort of one-note. It’s more interesting to see these characters at different stages."

As a result, some of the mutants are little kids and others, among them Iceman and Rogue, are teenage students of Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) at his School for Gifted Youngsters, which is secretly an academy for superpowered mutants. And, of course, some of the older mutants have grown up to become heroes, while others have turned to the dark side.

"I like that Iceman is a student," Ashmore says. "You get to take the journey with him. He’s still discovering and learning about his powers, and becoming the character he does become.

"It’s important, I think, to see some of the origins," the actor adds. "If the audience knows a character’s background, history and the things that happened to him, that shaped him, that helps them become attached to the character and care more about him later on."

Now 23, Ashmore was born in Richmond, British Columbia, and raised there and in Toronto. A twin, he started his career in commercials before graduating to small roles in films and guest spots on television shows. His genre credits include episodes of "The Ray Bradbury Theater," "Earth: Final Conflict," "The Outer Limits" and "Smallville."

He was 18 when he landed the role of Bobby/Iceman in "X-Men." The part was a small one, a cameo tip of the hat to "X-Men" fans and a tease as to what other mutants might emerge if ever there were a sequel. No one dared promise, however, that he or the character would be back for more in a second installment.

"There was no ‘X-2’ deal, not at all," he says. "After ‘X-Men’ was released, people started recognizing me and coming up and saying, ‘That was a really cool scene’ or ‘That was really great, how you and Rogue interacted.’

"I started to feel that there was a possibility that I might get into ‘X-2,’ " he says. "But there were no talks about it, and I really wasn’t expecting anything. I’m just glad it worked out the way it did, because it’s been an amazing experience."

Should the new film match or exceed the big numbers its predecessor racked up at the box office, "X-Men 3" would be a no-brainer. Ashmore, no surprise, is ready for more.

"I am signed on for ‘X-3,’ " he says. "A lot of people have been asking ‘What’s with a third one?’ The second one hasn’t come out yet, so the decision won’t be made until everyone sees ‘X-2’ and Fox decides whether or not they want to invest in another one.

"But it’s smart of the studio to have some of the cast signed for ‘X-3,’ " he adds, "because it will save some time if they go ahead and make it. I want to do a smaller film next, maybe an independent, but if ‘X-3’ happens I’ll be there in a minute."

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