Rena Owen

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Rena Owen
Rena Owen.jpg
Born (1962-07-22) 22 July 1962 (age 54)
Bay of Islands, Northland, New Zealand
Nationality New Zealand
Occupation Actress, writer, director, producer
Years active 1990–present

Rena Owen (born 22 July 1962) is a New Zealand actress in theatre, television and film. Owen is best known for her leading role as Beth Heke in Lee Tamahori's Once Were Warriors and as Taun We in George Lucas's Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones.

Early life[edit]

Born in New Zealand, Owen is of Maori, Welsh, and other European descent. One of nine children, she grew up in Moerewa, raised Catholic in a small rural town in the North Island's Bay of Islands.[1] She regularly performed in local Maori culture groups and performed in dramas and musicals while in high school. Owen pursued a medical career and trained as a nurse at Auckland Hospital for three and a half years. Once she qualified as a registered nurse, Owen moved to London, England.[2]


Owen trained at the Actors Institute in London in the mid-1980s and worked extensively in British theatre.[3] Highlights include Voices From Prison for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Co-Existences for the Elephant Theatre and Outside in for Theater New Zealand, which debuted at the Edinburgh Festival. Owen wrote and starred in Te Awa i Tahuti (The River That Ran Away), which had a successful London tour and was later published by NZ Playmarket in 1991.[4]

On her return to New Zealand in 1989, Owen acted in two dramas for Television NZ's E Tipu E Rea series. A first of its kind, the series was written, acted, directed & produced by Maori, telling Maori stories. She worked extensively in theatre; acting, writing, directing, working as a dramaturge, and was a founding member of Taki Rua Theatre. Owen wrote and starred in Daddy's Girl,[4] while also playing reoccurring roles in two TV series; Betty's Bunch & Shark in the Park. Recent theatre credits include starring in the classic NZ plays, Haruru Mai for the NZ International Arts Festival and The Pohutukawa Tree for ATC.[5] In the USA, she has acted in multiple stage readings for Native Voices at the Autry in LA, and a charity stage reading of Vagina Monologues for the City of West Hollywood. She also played the lead in a Hawaiian play called Fine Dancing,[6] adapted and directed Toa Fraser's play Bare for the Asian American Theatre Company in San Francisco (AATC).

In Once Were Warriors, Owen played the leading role of Beth Heke alongside Temuera Morrison, who played her husband. Once Were Warriors is predominantly narrated from Beth's perspective,[7] and her performance was praised as "classic".[7] Owen reprised the role in the film's sequel, What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? (1999).

Owen played Taun We in George Lucas' Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, Nee Alavar in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, and a cameo role in Steven Spielberg's A.I.[8] Whilst playing a reoccurring role in WB's Angel, Owen played supporting and cameo roles in multiple international independent films. Highlights include the NZ Canadian co-production, Nemesis Game, Garth Maxwell's When Love Comes, Rolf de Heer's acclaimed Dance Me to My Song, Vincent Ward's acclaimed Rain of the Children,[9] and US thrillers Alyce Kills & The Well.[10][11] She played leading roles in the Australian TV drama series, Medivac in 1998, and recently in ABC's, The Straits, a multi-ethnic crime family drama. She also appeared in A&E's Longmire.[12]

Recently Owen and Morrison completed work on a documentary celebrating the 20-year anniversary of Once Were Warriors.[13]

Star Wars[edit]

Owen acted as Taun We in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002) (in which Morrison played Jango Fett) and acted in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005) as Nee Alavar. She also worked with the Star Wars Expanded Universe when she reprised her role as Taun We in the video game Star Wars: Republic Commando and also an uncredited role as Jedi Master Tionne Solusar in the video game Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron.


Her role in Once Were Warriors earned Owen rave reviews and multiple international awards including Best Actress at the Montreal World Film Festival, Oporto Film Festival, San Diego International Film Festival, and the Cannes Film Festival Spirit Award.[14] In New Zealand, she was awarded a Special Benny Award for Excellence in Film, and the Toastmasters Communicator of the Year Award.[3]

Further acting accolades include a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role in the 1997 New Zealand TV Series, Coverstory and an AFI Best Supporting Actress nomination in 1998 for her role in Rolf de Heer's film, Dance Me to My Song.[15] She won the Best Supporting Actress Award at the 2012 Aotearoa Film and Television Awards (AFTA) for her role as Hine Ryan in the New Zealand soap opera Shortland Street.[16][17][18] She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her recurring role as Mere Hahunga in the award winning Australian TV series, East West 101, at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts,[19] and nominated for Best Actress at the Montecarlo International Television Festival.[20]


Year Title Role Director
2016 Lost Girls Cop Julia Verdin
2015 The Last Witch Hunter Glaeser Breck Eisner
2014 The Dead Lands Grandmother Toa Fraser
2014 The Well Claire Thomas Hammock
2011 Exquisite Continent The Narrator Stephen Gyllenhaal
2011 Absolute Killers Judge Irwin Heather Hale
2011 Alyce Kills Danielle Jay Lee
2009 Spout Oma Alex Munoz
2009 Veronika Decides to Die Nurse Josephine Emily Young
2009 Amusement Psychiatrist John Simpson
2009 Karma Kula Mystic Warrior Queen Puta The Ninjai Gang
2008 A Beautiful Life Sam Alejandro Chomski
2008 Finding Red Cloud Barfly Micheal O'Connor
2008 Rain of the Children Puhi Tatu Vincent Ward
2007 Ocean of Pearls Anna Berisha Sarab Neelam
2006 The Iron Man Dolores Alex Nam
2006 Leela Mother Malik Vitthal
2005 Freezerburn Lee Melissa Balin
2005 Mee-Shee: The Water Giant Crazy Norma John Henderson
2005 Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith Nee Alavar George Lucas
2005 The Crow: Wicked Prayer Mary Lance Mungia
2005 The Horrible Flowers Linda Eric Tretbar
2004 Pear ta ma 'on maf Warrior Woman Vilsoni Hereniko
2003 Nemesis Game Emily Gray Jessie Warne
2003 Red Zone/Pledge of Allegiance Maria Lee Madsen
2003 sIDney Clarissa Malik Vitthal
2002 Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones Taun We George Lucas
2002 A Thousand Guns The Gypsy
2002 Soul Assassin Karina Lawrence Malkin
2001 A.I. Artificial Intelligence Ticket Taker Steven Spielberg
2000 All-American Girl: The Mary Kay Letourneau Story Soona Fualaau Lloyd Kramer
2000 Her Iliad Lena Jesse Warn
2000 What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? Beth Heke Ian Mune
1999 I'll Make You Happy Mickie Athina Tsoulis
1999 9 Across Tish Jesse Warn
1998 When Love Comes Along Katie Garth Maxwell
1998 Dance Me to My Song Rix Rolf de Heer
1995 Savage Play Takiora Alan Lindsay
1995 The Call Up Emily Broughton David Blyth
1994 Rapa Nui Hitirenga Kevin Reynolds
1994 Once Were Warriors Beth Heke Lee Tamahori
1994 Hinekaro Goes on a Picnic and Blows Up Another Obelisk Hinekaro Christine Parker



  • Lead Role: Pohutukawa Tree, Auckland Theatre Company, New Zealand (2009)[23]


  1. ^ Johnson, Brian D. "Ogopogo gets drawn Down Under", Maclean's, 31 July 2006, vol. 119, issue 29, page 56.
  2. ^ Rich, B. Ruby (1 February 1995). "A Bette Davis from Down Under". Elle Magazine. 
  3. ^ a b Reed, Nicol (16 November 2003). "Rena Owen: Acting her age". Sunday Star Times. 
  4. ^ a b Eugene Benson; L.W. Conolly (30 November 2004). Ency Post-Colonial Lit Eng 2v. Routledge. pp. 397, 398. ISBN 978-1-134-46848-5. 
  5. ^ Knight, Kim (30 August 2009). "The way we were". Sunday Star Times. Retrieved 7 August 2014. 
  6. ^ Harada, Wayne (11 March 2005). "Fijian family's tale told through 'Eyes' of a camera". Honolulu Advertiser. 
  7. ^ a b Valerie Alia; Simone Bull (2005). Media and Ethnic Minorities. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 52–56. ISBN 978-0-7486-2069-2. 
  8. ^ Castles, Helen (8 May 2007). "Rena's happy in Hollywood". Northern News. Fairfax New Zealand Limited. 
  9. ^ Gilchrist, Shane (13 September 2008). "Rena Owen returns to rural roots". Otago Daily Times. Retrieved 7 August 2014. 
  10. ^ Gonzalez, Ed (17 May 2013). "Alyce Kills Film Review by Chuck Bowen". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  11. ^ Lowe, Justin (15 June 2014). "'The Well': LAFF Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  12. ^ Hale, Mike (14 December 2012). "'The Straits,' an Australian Series at". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 August 2014. 
  13. ^ "Kiwis pick favourite movie". Stuff. 25 January 2014. Retrieved 7 August 2014. 
  14. ^ a b c Jane Sloan (26 March 2007). Reel Women: An International Directory of Contemporary Feature Films about Women. Scarecrow Press. pp. 163–. ISBN 978-1-4616-7082-7. 
  15. ^ a b c "Dance Me to mMy Song". South Australian Film Corporation. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  16. ^ Anstiss, Celeste Gorrell (13 November 2011). "Stars' time to shine at AFTA Awards – NZ Herald News". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  17. ^ "NZ screen stars and creators celebrate at awards". 3 News. 13 November 2011. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  18. ^ a b "Congrats to Rena Owen!". TVNZ on demand. 16 April 2011. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  19. ^ a b "Award Winners and Nominations" (PDF). Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA). Australian Film Institute. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  20. ^ Wightman, Catriona (20 April 2011). "In Full: Monte Carlo TV Festival fiction nominees". Digital Spy. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  21. ^ Fleming, Donna (7 December 2011). "Rena Owen follows her heart home". New Zealand Woman's Weekly. 
  22. ^ "Chicago critics stand own ground with film nominations". The Daily Herald. 15 January 1996. p. 36. Retrieved 8 August 2014 – via  open access publication – free to read
  23. ^ "The Pohutukawa Tree". The Big Idea. 20 August 2009. Retrieved 7 August 2014. 

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