An active needle is proposed for the development of MRI guided percutaneous procedures. The needle uses internal laser heating, conducted via optical fibers, of a shape memory alloy (SMA) actuator to produce bending in the distal section of the needle. Active bending of the needle as it is inserted allows it to reach small targets while overcoming the effects of interactions with surrounding tissue, which can otherwise deflect the needle away from its ideal path. The active section is designed to bend preferentially in one direction under actuation, and is also made from SMA for its combination of MR and bio-compatibility and its superelastic bending properties. A prototype, with a size equivalent to standard 16G biopsy needle, exhibits significant bending with a tip rotation of more than 10°. A numerical analysis and experiments provide information concerning the required amount of heating and guidance for design of efficient optical heating systems.