The fourth of five brothers, Owen was born in Coventry, West Midlands, England, the son of Pamela and Jess Owen. His father, a country and western singer, left the family when Owen was three years old, and despite a brief reconciliation when Owen was nineteen, the two have remained estranged. Raised by his mother and stepfather, a railway ticket clerk, he has described his childhood as "rough." While initially opposed to drama school, he changed his mind in 1984, after a long and fruitless period of searching for work. Owen graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1987 with a class that included Ralph Fiennes and Jane Horrocks. After graduation, he won a position at the Young Vic, performing in several William Shakespeare plays. In an incident he later described as "very schmaltzy", he met his future wife when the two performed the leads in Romeo and Juliet.