The Titanic may have sunk, but the world’s universally heartfelt love for Leonardo DiCaprio will never flounder.
Ever since he jigged onto the silver screen as Jack Dawson in James Cameron’s 1997 epic film, based on the tragic true story of HMS Titanic, Leo has kept our faith in Hollywood – and humanity – afloat.
But prepare to fall in love with the 42-year-old Oscar-winning actor like never before…
The actress who played Jack’s ‘best girl’ in Titanic has revealed what it was really like to work with the man, the myth, the legend that is Leo DiCaprio.
Her name is Alex Owens-Sarno and she dazzled us all with her portrayal of the little girl, Cora Cartmell, who was travelling to America with her father when Leo’s character Jack took her under his wing.
Now in her mid-twenties, she was tracked down by the people at Buzzfeed, who were wondering whether the 20 years since the film was released had aged her at all.
Alex is still working in Los Angeles as an actress, writer and improviser, but she looks back fondly on her days filming with Leo.
She shared some of her happiest – and most heartbreaking – memories of the Titanic set with Cosmopolitan, drawing a direct comparison between the actor and the hero of the piece:
There was so much of Jack in Leo, definitely. He was very sweet; he was very goofy, absolutely adorable. He always had a smile on his face, it was great.
In case the haze of love and time has dampened your memories, Cora and Jack became particularly good friends on board the ‘Unsinkable Ship’ below deck.
Jack would twirl Cora around the dancefloor, even letting the young girl dance on his feet…
Before getting understandably distracted by the arrival of Ms. Winslet, who played high-society love interest and romantic heroine, Rose.
Remembering the iconic scene, Alex said:
I don’t know if I can do the jig anymore! I think if I watched and really just dedicated time to relearning it, maybe I could do it.
But you also can’t do it by yourself. When you’re getting, like, twirled around by Leonardo DiCaprio, you just go with the moment.
Alex recalled the first scene she shot on set with Leo:
My very first scene was one where I’m sitting with Leonardo DiCaprio, and we were drawing in his sketchbook.
And he sees Rose and then [the actor playing] my dad comes up and says, ‘All right, say good-bye to Uncle Jack’, so he could go off with her.
Unfortunately, the scene was cut in post-production – but it is in the DVD extras, in case you’re interested.
Alex explained the short encounter took three hours to shoot. Leo kept her entertained by ‘just hanging out and drawing pictures’.
If I remember correctly, we were drawing the world, and we were drawing the rain, which was God crying. I have this really weird memory of that.
Alex told the magazine about Leo’s unwavering generosity on set, saying the superstar even gave her presents:
…There’s another scene where Leo is drawing me and my dad. We’re looking out at the ocean and he’s drawing us; it’s the scene where he sees Rose for the first time.
Leo signed that sketch for me, and it was [being kept] safe in a trailer, and someone went in and stole it. I was so upset.
When asked if she knew that Leo was a world-famous heartthrob, Alex simply replied, laughing:
I didn’t ever really notice that; I wasn’t really paying attention, because I was thinking, ‘This is my new best friend Leo, and he’s so cool’.
It was funny because, that year – especially after filming – that’s when he was all over the J-14 magazines. People at school would bring the magazines in and I would be like, ‘Oh, I know him’… You know, like a total little snob. They’d all say, ‘We know you know him! Shut up!’
Having found a pal for life, Alex even admitted she asked Leo to ‘come trick-or-treating’ with her. Although Leo was keen as mustard, the meeting unfortunately never came to fruition.
But Alex was lucky enough to be able to witness the beginnings of the most documented Hollywood friendship in history, between DiCaprio and his mate, Kate.
The young actress spoke fondly of Academy award-winning Ms. Winslet too:
In between scenes, we would hang out, and Kate would come up and talk to us too — she was obsessed with my sister’s hair, so she was always playing with it… And Leo would try to chase my sister around and tickle her.
Unfortunately, Alex’s relationship with Leo hasn’t stood the test of time quite as well as he and Kate Winslet.
Asked whether the keep in touch, Alex explained:
I don’t. And it’s such a bummer. I wish I did.
HAHAHA! This is what happens when you ask your mom to text you pictures of the polaroids from Titanic. Of course my face is the one blown out. Gotta love that lady. Hopefully I'll get one sans flash. But this one is cool because you can see how weathered it is. More to come! Xoxo #titanic #coracartmell #alexandreaowens #actress #actorslife
But the actress still remembers the experience fondly, as far as we can tell from her social media.
The actress has shared some behind-the-scenes Polaroids – so vintage – with her Instagram followers in recent years, since rediscovering her acting talent after a hiatus through her teens.
Blurry and blown out, but some behind the scene shots. 3 of these I haven't even seen in years! The top left hand corner was for a school project I did. And the bottom right hand corner is me, my mom and my sister. Thanks to my momma for sending these gems over. #fbf #titanic #coracartmell #alexandreaowens #leonardodicaprio #katewinslet #actress #actorslife ???
…And obviously, her proud mum kept this adorable essay Alex wrote as a young girl embarking on her first journey into acting.
Alex is still such a huge fan of the 1997 film she played a part in, she’s happy to sign autographs upon request of die-hard fans.
We have a feeling her hands will be pretty sore now that her secret silver screen past is out for all the world to fawn over.
At least she might get to go trick or treating with Leo now.
A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you’ve never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.