Shawn Ashmore on the ‘epic’ ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’: This time, it’s war

(CBR) Shawn Ashmore may very well be the coolest mutant around. As Bobby Drake/Iceman, the actor charmed Rogue (Anna Paquin) in Bryan Singer's “X-Men.” The sequel, “X-Men 2: X-Men United,” provided glimpses of Bobby's dysfunctional family life and his friendship with hothead Pyro (Aaron Stanford). Finally, Fox's X-trilogy capped off with “X-Men 3: The Last Stand,” which found full-fledged X-Man Bobby completely icing up his body and confronting his former teammate, Pyro.

Now, the Iceman cometh again in the highly anticipated “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” Loosely based on 1981's epic “Uncanny X-Men” comic book classic, Ashmore reunites with Singer for a movie which pits the X-Men of the past, present and future against a menace that could completely exterminate them for good: The Sentinels. As the eve of mutantkind's potential extinction draws ever closer, CBR News spoke with Ashmore about Bobby's evolution from teenaged mutant to weathered soldier, playing a game with higher stakes than ever and Iceman's snazzy new threads.

CBR News: You're well versed in the X-Men comics — in your opinion, why is “Days of Future Past” such a great story to adapt to film?

Shawn Ashmore: First of all, with the success of “First Class,” it made a lot of sense to combine these two timelines and these two casts. It's an opportunity, without feeling forced, to take advantage of all these amazing actors that have been cast in the franchise. I think it was a really smart and interesting move to bring everybody together for one film.

For me, what I loved about the “Days of Future Past” comic books, and what I think is going to translate well to the screen, is it's an epic storyline. Not only does the future storyline almost feel like a science fiction movie, but it's set in the future. It's a world that we've never seen in the “X-Men” [movie] universe. It's war-torn. It's almost post-apocalyptic. The X-Men are at war. They are not students. They are not civilians. They are soldiers. It's a side of the X-Men that we haven't seen, which I think is amazing.

Then, you get to cut back to the “First Class” world and it's a period piece. So, you have this futuristic setting, with the period piece, along with this great cast, and the stakes are very high in this film because characters die. The Sentinels are hunting down and exterminating mutants. The idea of fighting for our very survival is an epic storyline. It's going to be a great adaptation.

How has Bobby changed since we last saw him?

Bobby is a soldier now. Straight up. In “X-Men 3,” he was a part of the team. He had his uniform. He was fighting alongside Wolverine and Beast and Colossus. But Bobby is a soldier, now. They are running. They aren't really living anymore; they are surviving. There's a general attitude change for these characters. It's not as easy for them. That's what I came into this film thinking about. Bobby has matured physically. Obviously, as you age as an actor, you get to bring that to the screen. But, he's also a soldier. There's no messing around, anymore.

The X-Men have ditched their black leather costumes in the future. What do you think of the new outfits, and how functional are they?

I love the new costumes. What I liked is they are more individualized in a really cool way, to suit whatever our ability is. The original black costumes were great because it was about being a team. There's a unity to the X-Men. Xavier has money, so you would have matching costumes as a team. Now, the costumes are a little more makeshift, a little more guerilla-style. You make your own costume as you find pieces that you need.

It's more functional. There's that sense that they are beaten-up and are worn down. They are not like the shiny leather costumes that we would probably wear when only going into battle. This is the stuff we live in. This is the stuff we sleep in. This is the stuff we fight in. I love the decisions that costume designer Louise [Mingenbach] and Bryan Singer made. I was excited to have a new look for Bobby.

Iceman looks legitimately tough in the posters, but in the comics, Bobby has always been clean-cut. Was there any discussion or debate over the beard?

Yeah, there absolutely was. It was interesting — I got an email from the makeup and hair department leading up to shooting. It said, “Please don't cut your hair or facial hair,” so I just left it. I showed up having the beard and longer hair, and then the makeup department said, “Oh, I think that was a mistake. That was meant for the actors in the '70s,” because they weren't sure whether people were going to have long hair or sideburns. I said, “Oh, okay,” but in my brain, I had been picturing Bobby looking like this, being more mature. The idea of being at war and not being able to shave every day.

I started to think of the functional reasons why Bobby wouldn't be clean-cut, then I sort of said, “Maybe we can clean it up a little bit and leave it like that.” Bryan agreed and liked that idea and that was the decision that was made. It was a bold choice, but I thought, visually, the second people see Bobby with a beard, it tells a story. Without even saying a line, without explaining anything, things have changed. It was a cool visual cue that would immediately let people know things are different now.

I understand there is a big scene with all the X-Men returnees. How amazing was it to reunite with everyone?

It wasn't all the X-Men. There are certain characters that are not in the film. I worked with a lot familiar faces — I mean, this is the fourth “X-Men” film. It's great to be on set with everybody again and it's a real treat. It's a caliber of actors that I've had the chance to work with on each film. I just feel lucky to be part of this film and to get to play a character four times.

You've read the comic books. The Sentinels are in the promo posters and trailers. This standoff is something X-Men fans have been waiting to see for years. Did the battle between mutant and machine live up to your expectations?

Yes, we shot sequences that I think people have been waiting to see in the “X-Men” [movie] universe. Epic stuff. Bryan really brought it for this film. I can't wait for people to see the action sequences in this movie.