While the name Alex Owens Sarno isn’t instantly familiar to people, the image of her as an eight-year-old girl certainly is. The curly-haired cutie won the hearts of millions of people across the world - including her co-star Leonardo DiCaprio - when she starred alongside him in the blockbuster hit Titanic.
Alex played Cora Cartmell, Jack Dawson’s ‘best girl’ who danced with him at the Irish party below deck in one of the most memorable scenes of the movie - when Jack realised he was falling in love with Rose played by Kate Winslet.
Today, however, she looks totally different. The now 35-year-old has once again started acting, however, it wasn't a seamless continuation from her time as a child actor on the star-studded set.
What she’s doing now
After starring in the 1997 film, she hired an agent but didn't like being recognised in public as the “little girl from Titanic” so decided to take a break from acting. Once she was older though, she decided to move to Los Angeles and enrolled in acting school.
She has since worked on a number of short films and sketch comedies. Most recently, she became an associate producer on the short film Lanes and is part of an improv troupe called Ugly as Sin.
Despite not enjoying the same level of success she did starring opposite Leo, she looks back on her Titanic experience with great love, although she now finds her memorable dancing scene “embarrassing”.
“I don’t know why, but whenever I see the dancing scene I always feel extra embarrassed,” she told Unilad in a 2019 interview.
“I think it’s just because that’s the scene I’m most well known for, and the scene that when people realise I was in the movie they freak out that I ‘touched him’. I literally have had people say that to me. I know it’s coming from a good place, but it kind of makes it sound creepy!”
How she landed the huge role
So how did an unknown eight-year-old girl from San Diego score a role in an iconic scene from one of the biggest movies ever made? Alex says she'd always wanted to be an actress, so when her mum saw an open casting call for Titanic, she took her and her sister along.
She went up against 10 other blonde-haired girls when she auditioned for the role and was called back a week later to say she got the part. Her mum and sisters were also cast as extras in the film. Little did she know that she would star alongside an up-and-coming Leo, who shot straight to superstardom after the film, becoming one of the world's most famous people.
Remembering her time on set, she says she thought of Leo as 'her best friend'.
"At that time I was convinced he was my best friend. He always made a point to be super sweet to me and my family," she remembers. "I actually spent a decent amount of time with Leo. He was pretty much the first actor that I met on my first day. We were drawing pictures of where we thought rain came from. We’d hang out during breaks in filming."
She adds that he was always there trying to make he laugh and play with her and recalls Kate Winslet as "one of the sweetest women" she'd ever met.
Staying true to the role that made her known around the world, she has signed hundreds of autographs over the years for die-hard Titanic fans who contact her on Instagram.
"Honestly, it is truly incredible how many lives this movie has affected. I have people contact me via social media pretty often about the movie, how much they love Cora, and how the movie changed their life," she says. "I’ve had quite a few people tell me that they actually named their children after my character. It’s humbling."
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