Rena Owen is someone prepared to tell it like it is. She walks into a room and one is
confronted by a tough, no-nonsense actress with a strength that has helped define her life
and career. Now 36, Owen has won more acclaim and awards than you can poke a stick at, for
her bravura, uncompromising work on Once Were Warriors. Avoiding the pitfalls of both that
film's director and male star, Owen shunned the Hollywood route, preparing to remain close
"It was just such an honour to be a part of that
That accounts for her decision to work on what she describes as a modest role in the
new and acclaimed Australian drama, Dance Me To My Song. "It was just such an honour
to be a part of that film", the actress reflects in the midst of the 1998 Toronto
Film Festival, where she was promoting a low-budget New Zealand drama, When Loves Comes.
"I was in Brisbane doing (the tv series) Medivac, and I got the call about this
project. Rolf said to me that he "didn't want to offend you here, but would you
consider doing a cameo role for me." I said 'Of course'. There was this long pause
after which he said: 'But you haven't read the script'. To which I replied: 'Rolf, I don't
NEED to read the script, I'm very familiar with your work and it would be a privilege to
work with you.' " Suffice to say, he sent her the script, the answer was still yes,
and the cameo role has since won her an AFI Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
"It was such a juicy role and the kind of role I hadn't
played - namely a lesbian"
"It was such a juicy role and the kind of role I hadn't played - namely a
lesbian." Dance Me To My Song is the story of cerebral palsy victim Julia and her
yearning for a genuine heterosexual relationship, which she hopes to find with the
enigmatic Eddie. Owen plays Julia's sympathetic gay sister, who has her own problems.
"For me as an actress, it's really important that every role is different from its
predecessor, and Rolf afforded me this opportunity." Asked how she sets about playing
a gay character, she laughs loudly. "If you're asking me whether I did 'that' sort of
research, the answer is an unequivocal no. I do have a lot of gay friends, so it was easy
to do. Besides", she adds in all modesty, "it wasn't such an in-depth role that
I had to research anyhow; it was more to decide the look of it."