Rena Owen Poster


Jump to: Overview (2) | Mini Bio (1) | Trade Mark (3) | Trivia (13) | Personal Quotes (2)

Overview (2)

Born in Bay of Islands, New Zealand
Height 5' 6" (1.68 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Rena is an international award-winning actor and is one of only 6 actors in the world to have worked with both George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg during her illustrious career that spans 3 decades.

One of 9 children, she was born and bred in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand to a Maori/Welsh Father and a European Mother. She was first published at 8 when she won a national children's poetry contest, and throughout her youth, Owen was active in the Maori Culture Club, High School Musical productions, and Community Stage Plays. Despite knowing her talents were in creativity, upon graduating, the Arts were not considered a viable career.

At 18, she moved to Auckland to pursue a Nursing Career and 3 years later qualified as a General & Obstetric Nurse (RGN). In 1983, she went on her OE (overseas experience), a common Kiwi pursuit, and landed in London. Awed by the huge city and the bright lights of the entertainment world, the temptations that came with it easily seduced the naive 21 year old. But this life changing period led her back to a creative career.

She trained at the Actors Institute of London in the mid-1980s. During her formative years she worked in all aspects of the Theater. The first stage play she wrote, The River That Ran Away was produced by Clean Break and directed by the reputable award winning British actress Ann Mitchell with Rena in the lead role. It enjoyed a successful London tour and was later published by NZ Playmarket (1991). Other UK highlights include, Voices from Prison for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and award winning play, Outside In that debuted at the Edinburgh Festival.

Upon her return to NZ in 1989, Rena acted in two one-hour dramas for Television NZ's Series, E Tipu E Rea. A first of its' kind; the series was written, acted, directed and produced by Maori. In constant pursuit of learning and honing her craft, she continued to work extensively in theatre; acting, writing, directing, working as a dramaturgy, and was a founding member of Taki Rua Theatre.

She wrote and recorded short stories for Radio NZ, wrote and starred in the critically acclaimed stage play, Daddy's Girl whilst playing reoccurring roles in two NZ TV Series, Betty's Bunch, and Shark in the Park. Rena was a rare recipient of a Dame Te Atairangikaahu (the Maori Queen) Literary Award & Scholarship.

Rena's first feature film was a supporting role in the Kevin Reynolds/Kevin Costner film, Rapa Nui (1993), followed by the leading role in the cult-classic NZ film, Once Were Warriors. Her electrifying performance garnered her universal rave reviews. David Denby declared, "Owen's performance is classic!" Roger Ebert proclaimed, "You don't often see acting like this in the movies. The two leads bring the Academy Awards into perspective." Ruby Rich called her "The Bette Davis from Down Under", while Thelma Adams wrote, "Owen has the looks of Jeanne Moreau, the raw emotional power of Anna Magnani and a slim athleticism all her own".

The film was voted one of Time Magazine's top 10 films in 1994, it garnered over 30 International Awards, and screened in 66 countries. Rena won Best Actress awards at the Montreal, Oporto, Seattle, and San Diego Film Festivals, as well as the Cannes Film Festival's Spirit Award. While in NZ, she was awarded the Benny Award for Excellence in Film and the Toast Masters Communicator of the Year Award.

Rena returned to the Theater to act in two Stephen Berkoff plays, East West and Kvetch. She guest starred and earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role in the NZ TV Series, Coverstory. She then played a leading role in the Australian Network 10 TV Drama Series, Medivac (1996-1998), a leading role in Garth Maxwell's feature film, When Love Comes, and a supporting role in Rolf De Heer's critically acclaimed, Dance Me To My Song that was in competition at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival and earned her an Australian Film Institute (AFI) Best Supporting Actress nomination.

In 2000, Rena set up a base in Los Angeles to learn more about filmmaking. She played beloved Taun We in George Lucas' Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, followed by a cameo role in Steven Spielberg's A.I. Whilst developing two screenplays, she played a reoccurring role in WB's Angel. Lucas cast her again as Nee Alavar in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Rena went on to play supporting and cameo roles in multiple international films. Highlights include; Lions Gate's NZ/Canadian co-production Nemesis Game, Vincent Ward's acclaimed Rain Of The Children, NZ TV film A Piece Of My Heart, and USA thriller, Alyce Kills.

In 2010, Rena played a 3 month role on NZ's longest running TV series; Shortland Street and won the Best Supporting Actress Award at the 2011 Aotearoa Film and Television Awards (AFTA). A reoccurring role in the award-winning Australian TV series, East West 101 earned her a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Australian Academy of Cinema & Television Arts (AACTA), and a Best Actress nomination at the Monte Carlo International Television Festival in 2012.

In her latest TV Series as a series regular, Rena played the Matriarch opposite Brian Cox's Patriarch of a multi-ethnic crime family set in the Torres Strait Islands for an ABC TV Series fondly nick-named, 'The Sopranos In Thongs!' The Hollywood Reporter voted The Straits as one of the 'Top 10 Series' to binge watch on Hulu in 2013.

Theatre credits throughout the past 15 years include leading roles in the classic NZ plays; Haruru Mai and The Pohutukawa Tree, and in the USA; multiple Stage Readings for Native Voices at the Autry in LA and La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, Charity Stage Readings for the City of West Hollywood, and a leading role in a Hawaiian play called Fine Dancing. Rena adapted and directed Toa Fraser's play, Bare for the Asian American Theatre Company (AATC) in San Francisco.

2014, Once Were Warriors was voted the number one film of all time in New Zealand. Rena played a pivotal role in a documentary celebrating the film's 20th Anniversary, Where Are They Now? Her last USA independent feature film, The Well premiered at the LA Film Festival and she was cast in reoccurring roles for A&E's TV Series, Longmire and Sundance's TV Series, The Red Road. Her last NZ film, The Dead Lands enjoyed a Special Presentation Premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, garnered rave reviews, and sold to multiple territories. To close out 2014, Rena played the supporting role of Glaeser in The Last Witch Hunter directed by Breck Eisner, starring Vin Diesel.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jan Kean

Trade Mark (3)

Sultry, deep voice
A smile as big as Julia Roberts!
A mane of curly hair

Trivia (13)

One of only six actors to appear in films directed by both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg (the others are Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson, Christopher Lee, Richard Dreyfuss and Samuel L. Jackson).
Grateful she grew up in rural New Zealand with a strong concept of family, community and nature. Milked cows, rode horses, swam in rivers, and lived off the land.
Her Maori Tribal affiliation is Ngati Hine. Both parents have now passed away leaving behind a very large tight-knit family. 9 children, 7 in-laws, 28 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren! Family means everything to her as do her life-long friends.
She had to leave her cat in New Zealand and her dog in Australia rather than subject them to 6 months in USA quarantined cages. Misses them terribly but she now makes do with travel friendly Beanie Monkeys and a Plush Yoda.
Rena was one of only a very few to receive a Literary Award from Dame Te Atarangikahu, NZ's Maori Queen in 1991.
Was awarded a Scholarship to be a Native Fellow at the 2005 Sundance Producers Lab. Gained a place in the 06 European Film Business School and has been a Mentor for Film Independent's program; Project Involve.
Is proud to be an honorary Australian.
Was selected for Academy Celebrity Exhibition by Pat York and was honored to be next to Anthony Hopkins.
Lives in West Hollywood, California [January 2007]
Rena continues to maintain her home in NZ and a base in West Hollywood.
Rena has served on multiple International Film Festival Juries; MWFF Montreal World Film Festival, HIFF in Hawaii, LAAPFF Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, FIFO Festival International du film in Tahiti, USA Film Festival in Dallas & The Metro Manila Film Festival in the Philippines.
Rena has served on the Sundance Native Screenplay Selection Panel, as a Public Speaker for various Schools and Organizations including Graduation Keynote Speaker for the Ethnic Studies Department of Berkeley University, and as a Mentor for Film Independent's (FIND) Project Involve.
In conjunction with the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC), Rena has developed a totally pre-colonial epic NZ feature film based on the first historical novel to be written by a Maori, Behind The Tattooed Face by Heretaunga Pat Baker. She has also developed a Samoan Family Drama set in Los Angeles and Auckland, New Zealand.

Personal Quotes (2)

I have great respect for craft. I believe one shouldn't just assume a title but work hard in order to earn the title. A hunger to learn will take you a very long way!
My mum used to say, for an ordinary little girl from the sticks of New Zealand, you have lived an extraordinary life. For that, I am profoundly and eternally grateful. My motto; love what you do and do it to the very best of your ability!

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