Believe it or not, it’s now been almost 20 years since Titanic first sailed into public consciousness. James Cameron’s epic romance, which was released in 1997, starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet and would eventually gross in excess of $2 billion. Nearly two decades later, then, we check in with the film’s cast to see just how much has changed.
20. Leonardo DiCaprio (Jack Dawson)
While Romeo + Juliet made Leonardo DiCaprio a teen icon, arguably it was Titanic that launched the then 23-year-old actor into the showbiz stratosphere. His iconic performance as Jack Dawson earned him a place in many a 1990s teen’s heart, but later roles – such as his Oscar-winning performance in The Revenant – have seen him fight against his former image.
19. Kate Winslet (Rose DeWitt Bukater)
Like her co-star Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet was only in her early 20s when she was cast as the film’s main character and narrator-of-sorts, Rose DeWitt Bukater. Winslet is now in her forties and still as gracious as ever; a string of impressive performances – such as in 2008’s The Reader – have made her an Oscar-winning star to boot.
18. Billy Zane (Cal Hockley)
As Rose’s arrogant fiancé Cal Hockley, Billy Zane brought a level of sliminess to the role that remains unmatched by most modern movie villains to this day. And although his later roles arguably haven’t been as high-profile, Zane has still kept himself busy with a variety of films and TV shows such as Freeform’s recently debuted series Guilt.
17. Bill Paxton (Brock Lovett)
Bill Paxton had worked with filmmaker James Cameron on three previous films before Titanic, and so he was an obvious choice to play Brock Lovett, the modern-day treasure hunter who helps Rose tell her tragic story. His biggest role to date has been as the bigamist Bill Hendricks in HBO’s Big Love – a performance that landed him three Golden Globe nominations.
16. Frances Fisher (Ruth DeWitt Butaker)
Ruth DeWitt Butaker was another of the film’s brilliantly portrayed antagonists, as the pushy mom more concerned with social climbing than her daughter’s happiness. Unlike her scheming character, however, actress Frances Fisher – who has since starred in the show Resurrection – is absolutely lovely. Plus, she doesn’t seem to have aged a day since her time aboard ship.
15. Danny Nucci (Fabrizio De Rossi)
Jack’s friend Fabrizio De Rossi was a vital – if somewhat overlooked – part of the Titanic story, as his efforts helped Mr. Dawson and Rose escape the doomed vessel. Today, actor Danny Nucci is almost unrecognizable as his character due to his graying hair and specs. He is, however, still finding steady work as a supporting actor.
14. Kathy Bates (Molly Brown)
Molly Brown is one of many characters in the film who is actually based on a real person. In fact, the real-life Molly Brown gained recognition for rescuing survivors in the wake of the ship’s crash. And although Brown’s heroics are absent on screen, Oscar winner Kathy Bates imbued her with a likeability little seen in the film’s other upper-class characters. Today, not only is Bates is still acting but she has earned another two Oscar nods for her work.
13. Victor Garber (Thomas Andrews)
In his role as Titanic designer Thomas Andrews, actor Victor Garber fully embodied the kind-hearted spirit of a man who chose to go down with his ship. And while Garber has gained a few extra gray hairs in the intervening years, eagle-eyed viewers may still have been able to spot him as Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor in 2012’s Argo.
12. Suzy Amis Cameron (Lizzy Calvert)
Being cast in Titanic was surely a life-changing event in itself, but Suzy Amis found her fortunes turning even further after taking on the role of Rose’s granddaughter Lizzy Calvert. That’s because during filming the actress fell for director James Cameron: the pair would go on to get hitched in 2000. Amis has, however, since swapped the thespian life for motherhood and environmental activism.
11. Jason Barry (Tommy Ryan)
Poor Tommy Ryan – not only did he get stuck aboard a sinking ship, but First Officer Murdoch also shot him dead when he tried to board a lifeboat. Thankfully, actor Jason Barry seems to be doing a lot better these days and – besides appearing to have lost a little weight – he’s bagged various roles in shows including Sons of Anarchy.
10. Ewan Stewart (William Murdoch)
While Ewan Stewart did a great job of playing William Murdoch – another real-life character – his cold-hearted characterization of the First Officer proved controversial. In fact, the filmmakers later issued an apology to Murdoch’s descendants for the way he had been portrayed in the movie, because in real life Murdoch was documented as actually having saved lives rather than taken them. For his part, however, Stewart rose above the controversy, and the actor was even reportedly considered to play James Bond in the years that followed.
9. Eric Braeden (John Jacob Astor IV)
German-born actor Eric Braeden may have shown some impressive acting chops on Titanic, but he was actually hired to play John Jacob Astor IV because of his similarity to the real-life figure. And following his portrayal of the “richest man on the ship,” Braeden went on to win a Daytime Emmy award for his leading role on The Young and the Restless.
8. Jonathan Hyde (J. Bruce Ismay)
After his delightfully wicked turn as Van Pelt in 1995’s Jumanji, Jonathan Hyde gained another villainous role as the cowardly J. Bruce Ismay in Titanic. And although Hyde has since got rid of his roguish mustache, he can still be seen playing the baddie in the likes of FX’s The Strain.
7. Bernard Hill (Captain Edward John Smith)
Captain Edward John Smith was one of the noblest characters in the film – not to mention the historic tragedy of the Titanic – and chose to sink with his ship rather than escape. The brave captain was memorably played by British actor Bernard Hill, who would gain further recognition as King Théoden in two of the Lord of the Rings movies.
6. David Warner (Spicer Lovejoy)
David Warner was in a fine position to star as Cal Hockley’s doomed bodyguard Spicer Lovejoy. After all, the English actor had already starred in 1979’s S.O.S Titanic, in which he played survivor Lawrence Beesley. And although he’s now in his seventies, Warner has shown no signs of slowing down and has recently appeared in episodes of Doctor Who and Penny Dreadful.
5. Ioan Gruffudd (Fifth Officer Harold Lowe)
Fifth Officer Harold Lowe was only actor Ioan Gruffudd’s second film role, and the success of Titanic arguably launched his career in Hollywood. The Welsh actor would follow his supporting part as the dedicated lifesaver with leading roles in 2005’s Fantastic Four – as Reed Richards – and in 2007’s Amazing Grace.
4. Michael Ensign (Benjamin Guggenheim)
Although Benjamin Guggenheim was one of many passengers to sink with the ship, he undoubtedly did so with the most style. Indeed, the eccentric billionaire changed into evening wear before the Titanic fell into the deep. Actor Michael Ensign, meanwhile, still looks as jubilant as ever, and he continues to add class to films and TV shows to this day.
3. Martin Jarvis (Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon)
Martin Jarvis’ pitch-perfect rendition of passenger Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon was lent unexpected reality when he was actually cast alongside his own wife Rosalind Ayres. Jarvis now primarily works off screen, providing the voices of various famous characters including Alfred in the Batman: Arkham games.
2. Jenette Goldstein (Irish Mother)
Like Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein had worked with James Cameron before – fans may recognize her as Vasquez from Aliens. Her Titanic role, however, was significantly smaller. In fact, aside from the descriptive term “Irish Mother,” her character didn’t even have a name. These days, Goldstein seems to have left the acting world behind and instead operates a lingerie company in California.
1. Alexandrea Owens (Cora Cartmell)
Alexandrea Owens was just eight years old when she was cast as Cora Cartmell – a.k.a. Jack’s “best girl” – and had the enviable job of sharing an Irish jig with Leonardo DiCaprio. The actress has certainly grown up since her Titanic days, although she still regularly posts mementos from her time on set on social media.