Role for kids excites Owen12 Aug 2014, Posted by in ARTICLES & INTERVIEWS
Role for kids excites Owen
by Sue Fea
Southland Times, April 26, 2002
Rena Owen is tired of being the “goodie-goodie.” The highly acclaimed, Kiwi Once Were Warriors star has finally landed that “typical Kevin Spacey role” in a psychotic thriller, Paper, Scissors, Stone, being filmed this month in Toronto, Canada, Sue Fea writes. She plays a somewhat psychotic character: “But it’s juicy man, really juicy.” Ever since her successful performance as battered wife, Beth Heke in award-winning Once Were Warriors, Owen has been branded.
“I get bored playing the goodie goodie all the time – I want to play darker characters, they’re more interesting. I’ve never played the baddie,” she said longingly.
Her commitments on the Canadian set of that Lions Gate Production meant shooting for her role in the $42 million movie The Water Giant, being filmed around Queenstown, had to be scheduled within a few days this week. Owen plays an eccentric native Indian, “Crazy Norma” , in the Queenstown movie.
It was a role previously attached to American star Whoopie Goldberg, so Owen was flattered when offered it. The movie has a powerful message about the importance of family relationships.
“It was the wholesome kind of movie I really wanted to do – there was no swearing, no violence,” Owen said. “I’m doing it for my nieces and nephews – it’s the sort of movie you can take little kids and old people to.”
Now based in Los Angeles, Owen has landed roles in movies like Star Wars 2, directed by George Lucas, and Steve Spielberg’s Artificial Intelligence, Soul Assassin and Fire in the Womb. It was nice to be earning American dollars but Owen would dearly love more work in New Zealand.
“I’ll always come home if there’s fulltime work here. If it’s good work I’m on that plane and I’m back here.” Sadly, in New Zealand you could be a household name and still be on the dole.
“You can always spot an artist in New Zealand, because they drive the old bombs,” Owen said. “A group of (Kiwi) schoolkids once asked me: ‘Where’s your limo?’ I said, ‘Good question’.”
“But it’s not about the size of a role or the ego thing for me – it’s about the opportunity to be in good films. I never came into this to be famous or rich – it’s about the craft for me.”
Her widely acclaimed portrayal of battered Beth Heke in Once Were Warriors was the result of nine years’ hard slog in professional theatre “learning, refining and honing my craft.” Out of that role, and the heightened awareness it gave to domestic violence, came a flood of offers for public speaking in community outreach, something dear to her heart.
“Warriors gave me a profile, it set up a demand, but I’d always had a gift for public speaking and enjoy using that,” she said. The success of her guest lectures in everything from ethnic to women’s studies has seen her invited to Berkley University as graduation guest speaker this year and lecturing at Harvard University.
Owen just spent a week as celebrity guest at a women’s shelter home company in Seattle. Extensive research for Once Were Warriors helped, as did her background as a specialist obstetrics and paediatric nurse.
“To see a Polynesian person with a profile is incredibly rare in the world,” Owen said. Growing up in the Bay of Islands, Owen was one of nine kids and her five days in Queenstown was a great opportunity for some payback time to her mum, Cynthia Owen.
Besides, a week in that luxury apartment without American husband Olo Alailima would have been very lonely. Owen postponed a flight to Amsterdam for filming of Sole Assassin in October, 2000, so she could fly to Las Vegas and support Kiwi boxer David Tua. That’s where she met Alailima.
“Your highest good, or God, always knows what’s best for you.”