Being a twin has stood actor Shawn Ashmore in good stead career-wise. When, aged nine, his identical brother Aaron landed a part in a commercial but then fell ill on the day of shooting, Shawn took his place. "Being twins, that was easy," says the actor, for whom the substitution marked a first step on the road to screen stardom.
Shawn Robert Ashmore was born one minute after his sibling on October 7, 1979, to parents Linda, a homemaker, and manager Rick. Living in Richmond, British Columbia, at the time the family relocated soon after and the boys spent the first decade of their lives in Edmonton, Alberta.
Building on the success of his first venture into advertising, Shawn got his big break onto the small screen at 14 with the 1994 made-for-TV movie Guitarman. Although the flick earned him a prestigious Canadian Gemini Award nod, it wasn't until a few years later he realised he wanted to pursue acting full time. Walking home from after a particularly fun day of shooting on the set of TV film Promise The Moon the fledgling thesp decided he'd found his métier. "I realised I was never happier than on days like that," he says.
His goal decided upon, the young actor headed, along with Aaron, for Los Angeles where both brothers soon picked up roles in TV series. Then, having landed a small part in 2000 blockbuster X-Men, the fledgling star got lucky. The movie franchise expanded to include X2 and X-Men: The Last Stand - and with it so did his role of Bobby "Iceman" Drake, which gave the young Canadian international recognition.
As well as the special relationship it has brought with his co-stars Halle Berry and Hugh Jackman "Everyone gets together and your character matures as you mature" the X-Men series also holds a special place in Shawn's heart for its connections to his homeland. As well as starring fellow Canadians Anna Paquin and Ellen Page, it features as a location for the last two installments.
With offers flowing in after his outing in the action trilogy, Shawn was determined to avoid being typecast. "A lot of teen romance... movies were coming along after X-Men," he says. "But those aren't the kind of movies I'm really into. It's really a matter of trying to be a little picky and finding the things that you're really interested in." Instead, the actor signed up for Terry, the tale of late Canadian cross-country runner Terry Fox, which earned him a second Gemini acting nod.
Other plaudits followed. In 2006 the actor who has been dating Ice Princess actress Michelle Trachtenberg since 2004 appeared on a glossy US magazine's hottest bachelor list. A more weighty recognition came when Canadian Business magazine ranked him as one of Hollywood's most powerful Canadians. It is probably the latter accolade that the star is most proud of as, despite his Hollywood success, it's clear that Canada as he once proudly affirmed will always remain his "home sweet home".