Generation X: Junior mutants talk about the new movie

Fri, April 25th, 2003 at 12:00am PDT

TV Film
Rob Worley, Columnist

They're young. They're good looking and they're mutie scum.

Actors Anna Paquin and Shawn Ashmore return to the mutant fold as Rogue and

Iceman to the upcoming "X2: X-Men United." They're joined by Aaron

Stanford as "Pyro" to make up a sort of "Generation X"

clique in the new movie.

The three actors recently sat down with the press for roundtable interviews.

Several members of the press took turns asking questions about the new mutant

movie. Comics2Film/CBR News is pleased to provide readers with an edited

transcript of that conversation. (Warning: contains minor spoilers)

Q: Anna, was it like a family reunion for you? And for Shawn and Aaron did

you have to find your place in the family?

Aaron Stanford: For me, these guys were in the first film and I came

into it fresh, but I feel like I settled into the fold. Absolutely we were a

family. We spent six months together. Everyone formed their own life there;

their own routines, their own relationships. Yeah it was a big, big family.

Anna Paquin: Family reunion.

Q: Like you never left the other set?

Anna: In like a really eerie way because these movies go on forever and after

the first couple of days it felt like we hadn't really left. And also a lot of

the same crew, because we're up in Canada again. A lot,  in terms of the

behind the scenes production end, a lot of the same, creative people. It was

actually really nice. It was really great.

Q: It was good to see the X-Men kids' powers come up. Can you talk about the

individual powers that each of you have.

Aaron: I play Pyro and he's got the power to manipulate fire. He can make it

burn with any intensity or size that he wants to, or any direction, but he can't

create it himself. He needs an external source of flame to begin it, like a

match or a lighter or something. So, that's his little handicap.

Anna: I drain people's energy if I touch them. If they're a mutant I take on

their ability or their power, whatever that may be. I don't really do anything

spectacular because Rogue doesn't really use her powers that many times. So

that's kind of it. I just wear a lot of gloves. 

Shawn Ashmore: I play Iceman. Basically his ability is to lower his core

body temperature and manipulate water molecules. You know, shoot it out in a

stream of frost or create forms with it. Stuff like that.

Q: Chill somebody's ice tea?

Shawn: Yeah. You know, cold drinks. Whatever anyone needs. Good party trick.

Q: Is it good to know that your characters will be back whenever there's a

third one, because there's so much to do with everyone's characters.

Shawn: If there's a third one, I think there's an interesting relationship

between the three of us. There's a bit of a love triangle going on. Obviously

Bobby and Rogue are together and I think that causes Pyro a little distress. We

were talking about this yesterday. Maybe that's why he's such an angry young


Aaron: Maybe if he did better with the women he wouldn't be blowing up cop


Shawn: Yeah, so if there is a third and that comes about I think there're some

interesting things for us to go on. I think a lot of things were started in this

film that will be interesting to continue on. The relationship between the three

friends that happen to break off. They're all put through the same, sort of circumstances

and you see how each character deals with that in a different way. I think it's


Q: Anna, you say you don't do much with your powers but they do present an

interesting dilemma in the film. Can you talk about that?

Anna: Although I have what I think is possibly the lamest power of all of the

X-Men they chose to have in these movies...I really do nothing cool, you know

what I mean? It's not spectacular in any way. 

In terms of the emotional life of a character like Rogue, which you got to

Story continues below

see a lot more in the first movie than you did in the second one, is because

anyone she really cares about she really, physically has to keep far way from

her, which is also, I think, is true about regular people. Whenever you get

really close to someone there's always a possibility of hurting each other.

That's also a physical reality with her as well. That gives her a lot more depth

than your average comic book character, in terms of stuff you get to do or


Q: Have you had any strange encounters with comic book fans?

Aaron: Didn't you get accosted outside a comic book store?

Anna: Yeah, actually, I was with a friend of mine and we were buying like a

"Star Trek" thing, because she wanted to get it signed by Patrick

Stewart. So we actually had to go into the comic book store. I thought it'd

totally be fine, walk in, buy the Star Trek thing...

Aaron: And you had the white stripe in your hair.

Anna: ...I had the white stripe. Big mistake. Big mistake. Huge. Because I did

get followed around the comic book store and kind of refrained from leaving for

about half an hour, which totally fine but I didn't realize quite

forget about it for months and months and months and then you go into a

situation where there happens to be someone who's really into the movie or the

comic books. It's interesting. It's very different.

Q: Don't you run the risk of having somebody go, 'Poser. She thinks she's

Anna Paquin?'

Anna: I get asked a lot...people ask me if I look like Anna Paquin and I say,

'yes.' If they don't ask anymore questions that's fine. 

Q: Aaron, your character displays a lot of adolescent angst through different

mannerisms. Is that something you brought to the set?

Aaron: You mean like flicking the lighter? It was in the script that he's

supposed to flick it on and off. He uses it as a device to annoy other

characters really. But I think you're right, it does get to that energy of that

age and constantly ready to pop. 

But the actual little tricks that I did, flipping it open or there's like a

trigger trick that I do, Shawn actually taught me beforehand. 

Shawn: Iceman taught Pyro his lighter tricks.

Aaron: A little irony for you.

Q: Are your characters in the X-Men video games that are out?

Anna: Someone said that we have cameos in them.

Shawn: Yeah, in the new Xbox game that's out. I haven't really played the X-Men

games, but apparently the new one's really good. I was talking to my brother and

he brought it right up, so I'll probably end up playing it.

Q: For your video game cameos, do you voice those?

Anna: I didn't.

Shawn: No. 

Aaron: No.

Shawn: Maybe they took lines from the movie? I'm not sure. I don't even know if

they speak. It could just be sort of like maybe there's a matching scene and

we're all just sitting in a classroom or something. I have no idea.

Anna: We have no idea.

Q: I have a feeling we'll be seeing you guys in X-Men 3 and 4.

Shawn: It's possible. We don't know anything about the future.

Anna: Nobody tells us anything.

Shawn: We get asked a lot about the third one and we're like, 'this one's not

even out yet, so I think we have to wait and see what happens.'

Q: Do you three have action figures?

Shawn: I know that I have an action figure. I saw it on the Internet the other

day, and you had one last time.

Anna: Yeah.

Shawn: It's really strange knowing that there will be toys out there and people

will have a miniature version of you, doing whatever they want. I used to blow

up G.I. Joes with fire crackers, so I hope nobody does that to mine, but it's


Q: How much does it look like you?

Shawn: It's really, really close. They did texture mapping, which is like a 3D

scan and they just essentially just plug you into a computer and make a mold and

Story continues below

then send you off.

Q: How scary is that, knowing that they've cataloged all of your features?

Anna: They also do that in terms of the stunt stuff. If there's anything that

they can't physically act an actor to do, they'll ask a stunt person and then

digitally place their texture mapped body, which they can manipulate on a

computer. Basically, like that movie "S1m0ne," where they created the

digital actress, they've basically done that to all of us. So, if they ever

chose to, not that they could...

Aaron: Scary times.

Anna: ...but like if we died mid-movie or something, like if we got involved in

something dangerous on the set we died, they could finish the movie without you

at least.

It's also very expensive, so they don't like to do it. It's kind of a strange


Shawn: I'd like to think that directors like Bryan probably wouldn't want to do

something like that.

Anna: He'd be respectful enough to get you to do a re-shoot.

Shawn: Yeah, get the natural performance as opposed to alter your performance


Q: You talked about "X-Men" being like a family. What about when

you worked together on "25th Hour"?

Anna: There were three people in "25th Hour" that did

"X-Men" and none of us worked together on "25th Hour" and

Aaron and I never worked with Brian Cox who was the third person.

Q: But it makes me wonder if there's a certain comfort level that you have

when you work on the same films together.

Aaron: Well if we had worked together on "25th Hour" I bet would have

been very comfortable with one another.

Shawn: No, if were were on a different picture where we worked together it would

be nice to have friends...

Anna: have friends and to be comfortable around each other, because I

think one of the main things I found about acting is that a lot of it is getting

to know people and not feeling self-conscious and that's when I think people do

their best work is when they're really open.

Aaron: That's when communication happens: once you're comfortable.

Anna: Because then your just sitting and talking to the person. You're not

feeling self-conscious or strange or like they're going to judge you, because

you already know them. It's all kind of relaxed.

Q: On the merchandising end, I'm assuming we won't be seeing the Pyro

lighters on the shelves.

Aaron: Oh, I hope so.

Shawn: That's be kind of cool actually.

Aaron: I don't know. I don't know what they're doing.

Q: Pyro has a line where he says, "I can't ignite the fire. I can only

control it." Will he ever reach the point where he can ignite it? It seems

like it would be something to develop in the sequel.

Aaron: I don't know if he'll ever reach that point. He never did in the comic

books. He's actually dead in the comic book. He died from the legacy virus.

But no, I think that's one of the defining factors of that character: he

needs the external flame or he's nothing. That's his Achilles heel.

Q: So where do you guys go from here?

Aaron: I'll be doing some stuff back in New York. I just finished doing a dark

satire called "Rick" with Bill Pullman, a small independent. Then I'm

working on a film called "Winter Solstice" with Anthony LaPaglia, a

small, family-driven drama.

Anna: I have a film coming out some time this year, I think, called

"Buffalo Soldiers." I'm kind of taking a little bit of a break, or I

have been for the last couple of months, from both school and work, which is

very pleasant.

Shawn: I'm just sort of, now that this is coming out, looking for the next part.

I want to try something different, whether it's small and independent or

whatever. Just something different. I'm just looking for that right part that

really feels like it fits.

Q: What is it that you liked about living and working in New York?

Anna: Everything.

I think that there's some cities that, when you live there and you're really

part of the experience of being in a very exciting and very packed and very

Story continues below

diverse city like New York, there's so much that influences your life. I feel

like you have a lot of experiences to draw on. I think you get a lot of life

experiences in a shorter amount of time living in intense places. Especially as

an actor, New York has the whole benefit of a really strong theater community

and that's a whole other range of opportunities  that I think are really

amazing for actors to do.

I love New York. There's nothing like it.

Aaron: You've got two choices: New York or California. I don't trust anywhere

where the weather is this pleasant all the time. I grew up in Massachusetts, on

the east coast, so it's just unsettling for me. It's a pace of life and style of

life that I'm used to and it helps ground me.

Q: Can people enjoy this movie without having seen the first one?

Aaron: Absolutely.

Shawn: We saw it for the first time on Friday and it's such a riot. It's a lot

of fun. At the end of the day, there are certain inside things, if you're a

comic book fan there's definitely, sort of little...

Anna: jokes...

Shawn: ...hints and little jokes and stuff, but at the end of the day I think

it's a self-contained film.

Anna: Especially with the plot, it introduces a new bad guy and a new

whole  scenario. In some way you see some characters growing and developing

from the previous film, but it's self contained within this two-hour period of

time. That's really great. That's very hard to do when you're making a second

film to achieve that.

Q: But if somebody wanted to go out and get the DVD for the first one you

wouldn't necessarily discourage that.

Anna: Of course not. Especially the DVD 1.5 with the additional bonus footage.

Shawn: What is the bonus footage?

Anna: You guys talking about your parts. 

Shawn: Really? No its not.

Anna: It's like the new cast members. They interviewed you guys and put it on

the new DVD or something. I don't know. They were laughing about it a while


Shawn: We were laughing or they were laughing?

Anna: No they were like...laughing about it.

Q: Were any of you guys comic book readers?

Shawn: I was. I still, at my parents' house, have a big box in my old closet. And

I did read X-Men and I watched the cartoon so I was aware of X-Men before I was

part of this. So it was exciting.

Q: Be careful. Mothers are notorious for throwing that stuff out.

Shawn: It's probably gone by now. I left it there. If it's still there or not, I

don't know.

Anna: You sound like you have a story there.

Shawn: A fortune in comics that are now gone.

Q: Gone.

Shawn: Yeah.

Q: Where are you in terms of politics, music and film?

Shawn: Politics right now, let's be honest. It's a turbulent time and it's

difficult. We could get into it but I don't really think it's worth it at this

point. It's too complicated. Everyone has different opinions.

Music-wise: I could list you some bands that I'm interested in. The new Audio

Slave album is really great. That's the newest album I bought that I really


Film-wise: a variety of things. That's why I think being a part of something

like this is really interesting. It's a fun, entertaining movie, which is great.

Anna: It's a nice distraction.

Shawn: That's an important thing right now, escapism. A little bit of fantasy

helps everybody.

Q: X-Men is about tolerance and not fearing things that are different. What

do you think the value is of entertainment exploring issue like that? Do young

people respond to that element of it?

Anna: I think that's the been role of theater and film and performance arts for

as long as there've been, you know, back to like Greek times. The old, old,

oldest plays that were ever written were this form of catharsis for people. You

go and you experience something and it makes you think about things and maybe

you won't  need to go out and behave in a really aggressive way or do

Story continues below

certain things because you've experienced them through art. Whether or not

people realize that, I think that definitely it's a function that art can still

serve, even if it's a film.

Aaron: It's the hope to keep people interested in something long enough to

communicate something to them.

Q: Sometimes I think the public is too entertained. They're paying so much

attention to what's happening at the box office that they're not paying

attention to the outside world. A lot of people still think that Saddam Hussein

is responsible for 9/11.

Anna: That's unfortunate.

Shawn: I think you're responsible to, before you make a decision, to inform

yourself. I think the information is out there. Whether are people are looking

to get proper information for themselves. At the end of the day I think it's an

individual's responsibility, if they're going to comment or have an opinion that

they've hopefully found the correct information.

Anna: It depends how you were brought up and what kind of environment you lived

in and...

Aaron: Being politically aware and being entertained can exist at the same time.

It's just that some people chose to have it not exist in their mind at the same


Q: Anna, have you had to work to get your Kiwi accent out of your speech for

certain roles?

Anna: I'm bi-lingual [laughing], so to speak. If I talk to my mother on the

phone, or my sister, or anyone at home, I sound completely like I'm from New

Zealand and when I'm here I sound like I'm from here. It gets kind of tedious

when you're buying a bottle of water in a deli to be like, having someone

wanting you to explain your life's story and what your accent's from. It just

takes too much time.

Plus I've had the best dialect coaches on the planet teaching me to speak

perfectly correct American English, which doesn't hurt.

CBR News