The Famous Aaron Ashmore Closes in on Stardom

      He's 21, boyish blond cute and he fervently hopes that one day you will know his name.

      By chance, Aaron Ashmore, who's been a professional actor since he was 10 years old, appears in two movies at the 10-day Toronto International Film Festival that begins Thursday. These are the first two features in which he's been cast.

      He's done TV commercials and one-shot supporting roles on Canadian TV series Nikita, Emily Of New Moon, Are You Afraid Of The Dark, Due South, The Famous Jett Jackson and, coming this season, Twice In A Lifetime and Blue Murder.

      His two movies at the festival, both premieres, are The Safety Of Objects, which stars Glenn Close and was filmed in Toronto last October, and Treed Murray, a recommended, offbeat Canadian psychological thriller filmed in Toronto last September.

      Look at Ashmore and you'd think he was just some ordinary young adult, likely to be passed on the street as you would so many other people - no threat. But on screens small and big, the actor reveals, Canadian and U.S. producers filming in Toronto regularly cast him as "the tough guy, the bully. Apparently I come across meaner than I really am. And I like this because I find with these roles there is more to do than be the happy hero."

      The lone exception so far is his small supporting role in The Safety Of Objects, a U.S. movie about four intertwined families each going through conflicts. In it, Ashmore plays a likable 19-year-old just between high school and college, working as a security guard at a mall where trouble breaks out, and just out of a romantic relationship with the daughter of Close's character.

      "It was great," he said. Close, with whom he appears in two flashback scenes, was "really nice. This was my first picture with recognizable names. I've heard stories about big-name actors being trouble. But everyone was really nice. At lunch one day, I talked with Glenn Close, told her that I was a twin and that my brother, Shawn, also has been an actor since we were both young and she was interested in twins acting."

      In Treed Murray (one of the most awkwardly titled movies in the festival), he plays a gang member - the strong silent one who has hardly any dialogue but whose one wave of words becomes a turning point. His first words, only two, come maybe one-third of the way into the movie and they cannot appear in a family newspaper.

      Ashmore was born in Richmond, B.C., and at age 10 he moved with his family to Edmonton where he and his brother were recruited for paying jobs in TV commercials. Later the family moved to Brampton where the brothers attended Turner Fenton high school, still doing commercials.

      While his brother knew he wanted to be an actor after high school and did so, Ashmore applied at universities and colleges, but he was turned down and decided to keep acting. To support himself when acting jobs were scarce, he temporarily sold clothes and skateboards and was a sous chef.

      Over the past 12 months, he's landed one acting job after another, "the busiest time of my life," he says. He filmed his third movie, The Skulls 2, in Toronto in May - another small role.

      Now he has a Los Angeles manager, the same one his brother has, and because of that manager he also has an L.A. publicist - both of whom he's paying with money saved from acting jobs and originally intended for university. Still Toronto-based, he lives with his brother and he plans to apply for a U.S. work permit to try his luck in Hollywood.

      For the moment, he's gearing up for the film festival that he will attend for the first time. "It will be the first time I see myself on the big screen."

      "I don't know what to wear at a premiere. A suit?"

      The Safety Of Objects screens Sept. 7, 6: 30 p.m. at Uptown 1 and Sept. 9, noon at Cumberland 3. Treed Murray screens Sept. 13 at 6: 30 p.m. at Uptown 3 and Sept. 15, 4 p.m. at Varsity 2 and 3.

Ron Bull / Toronto Star