'The Lovely Bones' just the beginning for budding actress

16:00, Jan 18 2010
Stefania Owen
SHOOTING STAR: Pauatahanui 12-year-old Stefania Owen sees a future for herself on the silver screen.

Even just a brief chat with Stefania Owen is enough to convince you she has what it takes to be a star.

The freckly-faced 12-year-old, who lives in Flighty's Rd, is a budding actress who recently graced the red carpet in Wellington and Los Angeles following her small role in Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones.

Having dozens of photographers pointing their cameras at you, shouting your name as the flashes go off at the Los Angeles premiere was an experience she is not likely to forget any time soon.

"It was exciting having your picture taken, going to the opening nights and getting to meet people over there. But I was happy to come back home as well."

Having moved to this country with her family at age four - her mother is from Miami and her father a Kiwi - you would expect Stefania to have developed a Kiwi twang, or at least a hybrid accent. But she still has a very strong American inflection, perhaps making her more appealing to casting directors Stateside.

Following in sister Carly's footsteps, who had a role in the 2007 movie Bridge to Terabithia, Stefania's confidence, charisma and down-to-earth style proved to be an attractive combination for the makers of The Lovely Bones.


After auditions, however, it took six months before she knew the part of Flora Hernandez was hers. Stefania said by then she had already moved on, feeling it is important not to get disappointed or "attached" to a role, in case you don't get it.

Nevertheless, she broke into a huge grin when recalling the moment she got the phone call to say she had the part and would be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci and, of course, Peter Jackson.

"It was so much fun. All the girls in the film who were killed [by Tucci's character], we all became friends and would hang out in the trailers and play card games. I was nervous and excited but it all went away when I had to do my lines. Stanley Tucci and all the other actors were really friendly and Peter Jackson was down-to-earth. He was funny, making jokes all the time."

Her filming involved a day in Masterton, another at Jackson's studios in Miramar and a brief callback to do some voiceover work, in early-to-mid 2008.

Stefania's family and friends booked out the film's first screening at Pauatahanui's Light House cinema, and there was plenty of cheering when she made her appearance on screen.

But will living halfway around the world make it difficult to land plum roles and attend auditions in the future?

"It's not hard to send self-tapes [for auditions] from here and I think people actually like the fact I'm not in LA. If I am flown over to see people I really appreciate it."

Growing up with ambitions to be a singer or dancer, acting was not on the radar until The Lovely Bones opportunity came up. She had done two television commercials previously, and the experience of being on a full-on movie set - and becoming someone else when the director yelled "action" - swiftly had her hooked.

"I absolutely love acting, being a different person or something you're not. It's so cool. I find it pretty easy getting motivated and just doing it."

She and her sister have spent the past two years training with actress Miranda Harcourt and Stefania is convinced this is where her future lies.

While in Los Angeles for the premiere, she and her mum, Margarita, met agents, managers and attended auditions. While some of the movies she has tried out for are still in the very early stages, one is set to star George Clooney and another Jennifer Aniston. She narrowly missed out on a part in Let Me In, a remake of the acclaimed Swedish vampire film Let The Right One In.

It's exciting times for the girl from Flighty's, but being in New Zealand helps her stay grounded.

"If I had the choice I will live here. I like being around the hills and all the animals and I have really close friends. They come out and stay all the time [and] we have so much fun. I don't like it when people get stuck up just because they've been in movies or whatever. I'll just try and keep my feet on the ground."