‘Grey’s Anatomy’s’ Ellen Pompeo Was in This Spielberg Movie

Ellen Pompeo, who portrays focal character Dr. Meredith Grey on the ABC show Grey’s Anatomy, worked with some well-known superstars before making it big on the prime time medical drama. Playing opposite some Hollywood heavy hitters, her film roles weren’t as much in the limelight compared to her current gig on Grey’s Anatomy.

“Grey’s Anatomy’s” Ellen Pompeo | Eric McCandless/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

A critically praised portrayal

In the 2002 film Moonlight Mile, Pompeo played the role of Bertie Knox, who starts a relationship with Joe Nast who was portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal, according to RogerEbert.com. Directed by Brad Silberling, the movie had a somber tone which was inspired by Silberling’s loss of his fiancé, actress Rebecca Schaeffer, who was killed by a fan in 1989. Pompeo’s character was meant to help Nast in the healing process, since she had also lost a loved one.

Pompeo worked alongside some acting legends in the film, including Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon, and Holly Hunter. She also received critical acclaim, with Ebert’s website review stating, “Pompeo, a newcomer, plays Bertie with a kind of scary charisma that cannot be written, only felt… She is so vulnerable in this movie, so sweet as she senses Joe’s pain and wants to help him.”

“Moonlight Mile’s” Dustin Hoffman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ellen Pompeo, Brad Silberling and Susan Sarandon | Photo by Amy Graves/WireImage

A ‘thankless role’

Another film on Pompeo’s resume is the raucous 2003 frat brothers comedy Old School. Playing Luke Wilson’s love interest Nicole, critics noted that Pompeo was sidelined with what was considered a “thankless role,” according to E! News.

Directed by Todd Phillips, the movie also starred Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Juliette Lewis, Leah Remini, and Elisha Cuthbert. The film received some backlash on putting Pompeo and the other female cast members in the shadows, with the The New York Times saying the actresses were “mostly delegated to standing around and shaking their heads at the antics.” Yet Pompeo was still able to stand out, E! News noting that in his review Ebert wrote, “”One of the cute co-eds is played by Ellen Pompeo, who was so absolutely wonderful in Moonlight Mile… She should not be discouraged by this sophomore effort. Even Meryl Streep had to make a second movie after Julia.”

Flying with DiCaprio

Also in 2002, Pompeo played Marci, a flight attendant who is very briefly romanced by tinsel town’s most eligible bachelor Leonardo DiCaprio in the box office hit Catch Me If You Can.

Though it was a small role, Pompeo got her name on the same roster as some Hollywood major leaguers including DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Martin Sheen, Christopher Walken, and James Brolin. And to add to her list of credits, the film was directed by none other than the legendary Steven Spielberg.

According to E! News, Pompeo’s film career stalled after Old School, with a brief appearance in Marvel’s Daredevil as Matt Murdock’s secretary Karen Page, and landing a role in 2004’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind which didn’t make the movie’s final cut. When she was offered the part on Grey’s Anatomy by then not-well-known show creator Shonda Rhimes, Pompeo was hesitant, according to Good Housekeeping. According to the article, she didn’t want to get “stuck” on a television show, but accepted the offer for the pilot because she needed the paycheck. That decision paid off in spades, since the hit ABC drama is now going into season 16 with still strong ratings.

Her relationship with Rhimes has grown into a true partnership. “We have a respect for each other that we’ve both survived this long,” Pompeo told Good Housekeeping. “There were plenty of story lines I absolutely hated, and I was mad at her for them, but I’ve always trusted her vision. She’s the successful writer, not me. And if I’m as good an actor as I believe I am, it’s up to me to make that scene everything it can be for her.”