As a child, Owen performed traditional Maori songs and dances for tourists. While earning a nursing degree, she continued to perform in theatrical productions including "South Pacific" and "Calamity J...
Moved to London to pursue acting career while in her 20s
Co-starred in "Dance Me to My Song"
As a child, performed traditional Maori songs and dances
Feature film debut, "Rapa Nui"
Breakthrough film role, Beth Heke in "Once Were Warriors" (released in USA in 1995)
Wrote and starred in stage play "Te Awa I Tahutu"
Arrested for possession of heroin; served eight months in English women's prison
Made cameo appearance reprising her role as Beth Heke in the sequel "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?"
Acted in college productions of "South Pacific" and "Calamity Jane"
Had featured role in "A.I.", directed by Steven Spielberg
As a child, Owen performed traditional Maori songs and dances for tourists. While earning a nursing degree, she continued to perform in theatrical productions including "South Pacific" and "Calamity Jane". In the early 1980s, Owen moved to London to pursue acting but got sidetracked in the party and drug scene. Arrested for possession of heroin, she served an eight-month sentence in a women's prison. Once released from jail, she concentrated her attention on her acting career, appearing in stage productions. Her first feature role was a small part in Kevin Reynolds' overblown "Rapa Nui" (1994). Her second feature was "Once Were Warriors" (1994; released in the US in 1995), a brutal look at the physical and emotional violence in the lives of working-class Maoris. As Beth, the moral center of the film, Owen delivered a nuanced performance as a woman caught between her traditional culture and her tumultuous marriage to the abusive Jake (Temuera Morrison). Reportedly, the film has become the most successful New Zealand production to date.
"On an intellectual level Beth knows Jake's no bloody good. Yet on a deeper, emotional level she can't let go of him. It takes a tragedy or trauma; for me, the trauma was prison. Drugs, relationships, gambling, chocolate--it's the same principle of addiction. But, I'm living proof that 'Once a junkie, always a junkie' is not true!" --Owen quoted in "Warrior Woman" in VILLAGE VOICE, February 28, 1995.