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A Young Trio Marks the Next Generation of 'X-Men'
- Mike Szymanski

They may be the new generation among the X-Men, but the actors who play the three young superheroes in "X2: X-Men United" (opening May 2) are old-timers when it comes to being in Hollywood. Between them they've worked for Spike Lee, Woody Allen, flirted with Sigourney Weaver, guested on TV's "Smallville" and one even has an Oscar hidden away in her closet.

Aaron Stanford plays Pyro, whose specialty is throwing flames from his hands. At 26, he's known for his role of Oscar in the indie film "Tadpole," as well as working with distinguished directors Allen in "Hollywood Ending" and Lee in "25th Hour."

Shawn Ashmore plays Bobby, also known as Iceman, who can create frost from his palms. The 23-year-old actor has worked in Hollywood since he was 17 when he landed the role of Jake in Nickelodeon's "Animorphs." He has since appeared on "Smallville," "Being Brewster" and has a twin brother who also acts named Aaron.

Perhaps the best known of the trio is Anna Paquin, who plays Rogue. Her special power is to suck another person's power (or life force) from their body while touching them. At 20, she’s the youngest of the group -- but she’s also the only to win an Oscar. The New Zealand native took home the award for best supporting actress in 1996 for ”The Piano.” She also appeared in "Finding Forrester" and Lee’s ”25th Hour.”

Seeing them together, the three youths seem to have the teasing camaraderie they exhibit so well as students in the Xavier School for the Gifted in "X2."

"Yeah, she showed her Oscar around the set every day, set it up in her trailer," teases Ashmore, who plays Rogue’s boyfriend in the film. His character can't kiss her because of her power.

"She wore it around her neck," adds Stanford, who seems to vie for Rogue's affection in the sequel, but has a dark side.

Paquin rolls her eyes as the guys tease her and she tries to defend herself, explaining that she keeps her Academy Award in a closet in her apartment so that people don't feel like they need to comment about it every time they visit.

"It's pretty obtrusive and it's slightly awkward to have it out in my apartment," she smirks. Then, when asked if she and co-star Halle Berry compared notes about winning the most coveted honor in Hollywood, she replies rather sarcastically, "Yeah, one day we had show-and-tell day on the set."

Not feeling like winning the big award so early in her career is a curse of any kind, she says, "It would be ridiculous of me to say it's a curse, it got me this job, didn't it?"

She loves playing the reluctant superhero that finds the X-Men with Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman. And she's thrilled to already be signed on for the third, after the overwhelming success of the first "X-Men."

"What will be amazing is how they can get 15 people with such super busy lives together again for the next movie," Paquin tells "I really enjoy my character more, the first time around I was the damsel in distress screaming and wearing handcuffs a lot, this time I got to do much more."

What she doesn't like, however, is the bleached streak she had to put in her hair for six months. She plays with her bangs and says, "I know it's Rogue's one defining characteristic, but my hair snapped off from bleaching it so much."

The piece of her costume she hates the most, though, is her gloves. They weren't cozy in the summer, and they didn't keep her hands warm in the winter.

"I want to collect all of those and make a huge bonfire out of them," she laughs.

She and Ashmore have joked about how the superhero couple could ever consummate their relationship since even a kiss can kill -- although turning to ice is not a comfortable option, laughs Ashmore. But the cold didn't appear to faze the actor, who says he enjoyed the Canadian countryside during their down time on the set.

"It does get cold up there, but we saw porcupines in the wilderness and I never saw that before, that was cool," says Ashmore, who has a twin brother named Aaron (who stars in the upcoming "Safety of Objects"). Because of this, he often looked up when co-star Stanford was called by his first name, until it was clear whether the caller wanted the boy of ice, or the boy of fire.

"I like being this rather volatile character, he's got something going on, a past that makes him who he is, he has trouble with girls," Stanford says. In his most dramatic moment in the film, he attacks police officers with the flames from his hands. "I think I got the role because during my audition I was doing the theme to 'Cops' at the point that I let them have it."

Next up for Stanford is the dramatic film "Rick" co-starring Bill Pullman, and "Winter Solstice" with Allison Janney and Anthony LaPaglia. Paquin's upcoming projects include "Darkness" with Lena Olin and "Buffalo Soldiers" where she plays Joaquin Phoenix's girlfriend. Only Ashmore -- who only had a brief cameo in the first film -- has no upcoming projects. Yet, he's thrilled to be in a dream blockbuster high-action project where all his fantasies have come true.

"After all, in real life would a guy like Bobby ever get a girl like Rogue?" he sighs.

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