Rena Owen was a New Zealand actress of Maori descent who did her part to bring Maori culture to the world at large through her work in theatre, television, and film. Born on July 22, 1962 in Moerewa, NZ, Owen was raised Catholic in Northland, on the Bay of Islands. Her love of acting was present from the beginning: as a child, she often performed with local Maori cultural groups, and was active in drama club while in high school. After graduation, Owen trained as a nurse at Auckland Hospital for ten years. Once she received her nurse's qualifications, she decided to move to London. After a few years of working as a nurse, however, Owen realized that it was not where her true passion was, and decided to take acting classes. She trained at the Actors Institute in London for much of the 1980s, and soon became a fixture in British theatre. Owen appeared in plays at the Royal Shakespeare Theater, the Elephant Theater, and the Edinburgh Festival, among others. In 1989, Owen returned to New Zealand, where she became an active participant in the TV and theater communities, often choosing projects that focused on her Maori heritage. She brought that heritage to the big screen in 1994 with the domestic drama "Once Were Warriors" (1994). Owen played the matriarch of a Maori family, the Hekes, as they battled with poverty, alcoholism, domestic violence, and each other. The film received rapturous acclaim when it was released, and it often tops lists of the best New Zealand films. Owen became a popular leading lady in New Zealand film after that, turning in memorable performances in such films as "Savage Play" (1995), "Dance Me to My Song" (1998), and "When Love Comes Along" (1998). In 1999, Owen starred in a sequel to "Once Were Warriors" entitled "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?" (1999), but the film paled in comparison to the original. Following a small role in Steven Spielberg's dystopian futuristic drama "A.I. Artificial Intelligence" (2001), that director recommended Owen to his friend, George Lucas. Thus, Owen became part of the galaxy far, far away, when she voiced Taun We in the second prequel, "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones" (2002). Lucas enjoyed working with Owen so much that he brought her back to play an entirely different character, Nee Alavar, in the final prequel, "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" (2005). Following that, Owen mostly stuck to small New Zealand indies and TV appearances for the next few years. She could last be seen co-starring as Helen in the thriller series "Siren" (Freeform, 2018-).
Cast (Feature Film)
Breakthrough film role, Beth Heke in "Once Were Warriors" (released in USA in 1995)
Feature film debut, "Rapa Nui"
Co-starred in "Dance Me to My Song"
Made cameo appearance reprising her role as Beth Heke in the sequel "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?"
Landed small role in "A.I. Artificial Intelligence"