- - Wednesday, October 21, 2015

New Zealand actress Rena Owen came to the world’s attention in the 1994 independent film “Once Were Warriors.” The movie is highly regarded as one of the best films ever made by George Lucas, Time magazine and even action star Vin Diesel. In fact, it was her work in that film that led to both Miss Owen and “Once Were Warriors” co-star Temuera Morrison to working with Mr. Lucas in two “Star Wars” prequels.

Miss Owen stars alongside Mr. Diesel in the upcoming movie “The Last Witch Hunter.” Ahead of the action-horror film, Miss Owen spoke about her amazing career.

Question: Tell us about the new movie “The Last Witch Hunter.”

Answer: “Last Witch Hunter” is Vin Diesel’s next big feature film that tentativelycould become a franchise. With the storyline this could be franchised forever. Basically Vin’s character is immortal. He is one of these guys that keeps living and living for centuries, and he can’t die. His whole mission is to fight evil for all eternity.

Q: What was it like working with Vin Diesel?

A: I love Vin. Vin Diesel is an amazing actor and filmmaker. He was very generous to me. He always showed up for me. He’s one of these guys that respects really good actors. As every true megastar knows, you surround yourself with actors that are gonna force you to raise the bar.

He was a huge fan of the film that launched my career 20 years ago, “Once Were Warriors.” It was a New Zealand film by Lee Tamahori. I won six or seven international best actress awards at all these festivals.

Q: “Once Were Warriors” is so well regarded. Why?

A: The film was made in 34 days. True indie. For just $1.2 million. Time magazine’s top 10 list of the best films in the world. Still to this day, I get more attention from that movie than “Star Wars.”

Q: Why do you think that is?

A: It is one of those movies that has an emotional impact and you never forget where or when you saw that movie. Like I’ll never forget where or when I saw “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.” I’ll never forget my first movie from my childhood, “Born Free,” because it made me cry.

The movies you never forget are the ones that really touch you very very deeply. People send me these “Once Were Warriors” memes. I put one on my Facebook page and got 5,000 likes and over 800 shares. The photo of me and Arnold Schwarzenegger only got 2,400. I’m honored.

As an actor if you can be in a movie like “Once Were Warriors” that touches people, then you’re blessed.

Q: How did you end up in two “Star Wars” prequels?

A: George Lucas was a fan of “Once Were Warriors.” George was a huge fan and he said to his casting director, “I want the two leads.” So [“Once Were Warriors” co-star] Temuera [Morrison] and I both went in and met with George. Temuera of course became Jango Fett.

I was originally offered the role of Captain Typho, Padme’s security guard. Then George looked at the balance of the movie and said, “You have to have a man in those scenes with Padme.” He said, “There is an alien. Would you play an alien?” I said, “Sure, whatever.”

George Lucas, like most filmmakers, if they like you, they keep using you. He brought me back for “Episode III.”

Q: Did you realize what a big deal it is to be in a “Star Wars” movie?

A: At the time I had no idea of the world I was entering. I grew up in New Zealand. Being in the movie was just an acting gig. The great thing was there was no pressure. I just had so much fun. I didn’t know it was a religion.

Q: When did you first know it was more than that?

A: I went to the premiere of “Episode II” at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. I took this American friend with me. I got there, I saw all the people, I saw the media. But it didn’t register.

At the end of the movie I turned to my friend and said, “This is a bit of a big deal.” He said, “This is the biggest franchise in the world.”

But it still didn’t hit me until they invited me to do a convention in Dallas, Texas. When I saw all of these people lined up, all dressed up, that’s when I said, “Oh, my God!” I finally got it. I have done a few conventions. I’m grateful to conventions because I learned about the whole “Star Wars” world from fans.

Q: What is George Lucas like in person?

A: He is actually like a lot of artists in the world that do extraordinary things. They have a need to be ordinary. I would see him on set in the morning and say, “Hey, George, what ya eating?” He likes people that just see him as he is, which is just another fellow human being.

Q:W hat else are you working on?

A: I was just in “Longmire.” I had a re-occurring role on that show. I also just did a horror film called “Asomatous,” probably one of the sickest characters I ever played. The first few days were a bit rough because I was quite disgusted by the character. I also did an American film called “The Last Survivors.”

I’m working. Like all creatives we just have a need to be creative.

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