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Ellen stars as "Meredith Grey" on ABC's new series "Grey's Anatomy." The show is based on the daily personal and professional struggles of young student interns working at a rigorous hospital. Ellen Pompeo made her major studio screen debut in Brad Silberling's Moonlight Mile, starring alongside Susan Surandon, Dustin Hoffman and Jake Gyllenhaal. She received outstanding reviews for her portrayal of an outspoken young woman carrying a silent burden that's breaking her heart. A native of Boston, Pompeo was most recently seen starring opposite Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell in the wildly successful "Old School" and, before that, in Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can, opposite Leonardo DiCaprio. Prior to Moonlight Mile, Pompeo starred in several independent features, including In the Weeds and Coming Soon, and she can also be seen in the upcoming Glory Days.
More fun stuff about Ellen Pompeo
Height 5' 7" (1.70 m)
Is a native of Boston
In 1995 Discovered by a casting director while bartending at the NYC Soho Kitchen.
In 2001 Relocated to Hollywood.
In 2002 Co-starred in the drama-romance feature "Moonlight Mile".
In 2002 Portrayed a flight attendant in Spielberg's feature "Catch Me If You Can".
Had another scene in Daredevil (2003) as Matt Murdock's (Ben Affleck) secretary Karen Page, but it was deleted from the theatrical version of the film.
Her personal quotes:
"It was the best thing that happened to me all week - to say the very least...I was so flattered. I thanked him and told him how much I hoped we would have a chance to work together one day." - talking about when she was compliemented by actor Jake Gyllenhaal shortly after arriving in Hollywood. Just three weeks later she was working with him on Moonlight Mile!!
Ellen Pompeo Talks About "Moonlight Mile"
ELLEN POMPEO (Bertie)
You had actually met Jake Gyllenhaal prior to being cast opposite him. Can you talk about that meeting?
I had. Very quickly on the street, [we] just sort of said hi to each other. It was an awkward sort of flirtatious moment.
Were you flirting with him or was he flirting with you?
I think we were both flirting with each other (laughing).
What do you think your on-screen chemistry will be like, because of that flirtation?
Fantastic, I think.
What does this film have to say about loss?
It has to say that there is life after loss. You can never replace the person, but you can laugh.
Jake seems to have this "It" quality. What is it about him?
He does and I said it 500 times before and I'll say it again, it can't be articulated. Watch the movie and you see it. Watch anything he does and you'll see it.
People have compared him to Dustin Hoffman. Do you see that comparison - a younger version of Dustin Hoffman?
I don't know in what way they are comparing him. Clearly Jake is extremely gifted so in that sense, you could say that both of them are very gifted.
Is there anything you can tell us about Jake that we might not know?
He's a great cook.
Did he cook for you?
Yes he did. Pasta, salad, chocolate chip cookies, anything. He's a great guy. He likes to have fun and he loves to live life.
How do you go from a project like this to “Daredevil?”
Very easily (laughing).
What can you tell us about your work on “Daredevil?”
I only worked a couple of days on “Daredevil.” I play Karen Page who is the girl who works in the office. It looks like it is going to be a fantastic movie. I haven't seen it yet but I know that they are really trying to do it just right because I know there are millions of fans who want to see it done perfectly. I think they are making every effort to make them happy.
All of my scenes are with Jon Favreau and Ben Affleck. They are a lot of fun. I had just done “Old School” with Vince Vaughn and Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau are really good friends. It's almost like working with the same person so it was funny to go from one set to the next.
What is your character in “Old School?”
I play a girl named Nicole who is the love interest of Luke Wilson.
Ellen Pompeo stars in Moonlight Mile
As an analysis of the grief and subsequent healing process that must come with suddenly losing a loved one, "Moonlight Mile" rings with a resounding truthfulness that puts to shame 2001's well-acted but overrated "In the Bedroom." Whereas director Todd Field's final answer to the same topic in "In the Bedroom" seemed exploitive, turning a stark drama into a revenge thriller, writer-director Brad Silberling's (1998's "City of Angels") is heartfelt and genuinely believable. Silberling, who loosely based "Moonlight Mile" on a personal experience in grief (in 1989, his then-girlfriend, actress Rebecca Schaeffer of TV's "My Sister Sam," was murdered by a crazed fan), offers no pat or easy conclusions. In doing so, he transcends what could have been a sappy melodrama into a remarkably touching, unsentimental examination of the human condition.
"Moonlight Mile" begins at the funeral of Diana Floss, a young woman who was the innocent victim of a cafe shooting. In death, Diana has left behind fiance Joe Nast (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is currently living with her parents, real estate agent Ben (Dustin Hoffman) and writer JoJo (Susan Sarandon). In an attempt to hold on to the dreams they had for their daughter, Ben and JoJo cling to Joe as if he is still going to become their son-in-law one day. Meanwhile, as Joe struggles with a secret he has kept from them, he finds himself torn between the promises he once made to Diana's family, and a chance at a fresh start with the vivacious, soulful Bertie (Ellen Pompeo).
From the flawless performances from its cast, to Brad Silberling's tonally brilliant writing that understatedly mixes humor with heartbreaking tragedy, to the sumptuous period flavor of its early-1970s setting, "Moonlight Mile" is an astonishing achievement for all involved. Because Silberling has experienced first-hand the kinds of things his characters must face, he brings an unmistakable accuracy to its every moment that most films dealing with bereavement fall short of.
Humane quirks, such as Ben's insistence on answering the phone every time it rings, or JoJo's atypical approach to dealing with her daughter's death, or Bertie's ritual whenever someone picks her favorite song ("Moonlight Mile" by The Rolling Stones) off the jukebox at the bar she works at, are subtle inclusions that would have been overlooked in lesser hands. The textured period-specific music selections, spanning from Van Morrison to Elton John, for once aid extraordinarily within the storytelling rather than only as a way to sell soundtrack albums. Under the helm of Silberling, they add incredible depth to an already nuanced, character-rich screenplay.
Following 2001's "Donnie Darko" and 2002's "Lovely & Amazing" and "The Good Girl," "Moonlight Mile" is Jake Gyllenhaal's fourth remarkable performance, and film, in less than a year. The entire picture is told through the eyes of Joe Nast, a loyal young man caught in a difficult situation he is unsure how to get out of, and Gyllenhaal carries it with the resplendent professionalism and capability of an actor twice his age. As Ben and JoJo, who deal with the tragedy in their lives in wildly diverse way, veterans Dustin Hoffman (1998's "Sphere") and Susan Sarandon (2002's "The Banger Sisters" and "Igby Goes Down") give powerful support to emotionally demanding roles. Holly Hunter (2000's "O Brother, Where Art Thou?") effectively turns up in a few scenes as the Floss' understanding district attorney Mona Camp.
The real find is newcomer Ellen Pompeo, utterly luminous as Bertie. In what is one of best performances of the whole year, Pompeo brings extraordinary charm, freshness, and—most importantly—depth to her complicated character, the catalyst to Joe's realization that in order to be happy, he needs to move on with his life. Bertie is the essential ingredient to Joe's catharsis, and Pompeo and Gyllenhaal make a terrifically charismatic duo.
In a genre that so often relies on predictability, cliches, and mawkish sentiment, "Moonlight Mile" gets it exactly right. At no point can the ending be telegraphed, and the way in which Silberling opts to leave a key plot point unanswered is refreshing in its preference for character truth over obvious storytelling. And the last few minutes are veritably devastating and hopeful at the same time, managing to say so much by showing so little. The last image is, especially, unforgettable. "Moonlight Mile" is easily
Ellen Pompeo: Moonlight Mile
I have seen the future of movie stardom and her name is Ellen Pompeo…
I wish I could say that I was the first to discover the star quality that Brad Silberling and casting director Avy Kaufman are about to see skyrocket because of their vision. But some guy named Steven Spielberg gave her a small role in Catch Me If You Can and she’ll turn up in Mark Steven Johnson’s Daredevil.
She is not Kaufman’s first discovery. She also found Adam Hann-Byrd for Jodie Foster’s Little Man Tate, cast Tobey Maguire in his breakthrough role in The Ice Storm, put Sean Patrick Thomas in Save The Last Dance, gathered together the surprising cast of Dancer in the Dark and worked on a TV show called “The Job,” where a little-seen actress named Ellen Pompeo did a guest spot. And now, Ms. Pompeo is going to be a movie star.
But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Brad Silberling has made three movies. All three have involved the presence of the dead in the lives of living people, trying to get on with their lives. The first was Casper… a not-very-good movie that was, obviously, meant for children. When Silberling remade Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire as City of Angels, the critics’ heads started spinning like Regan MacNeil and some knives came out. (That didn’t keep Pablo Villaca from saying, “Uma pequena pérola que faz jus ao filme no qual foi inspirada." But I digress…)
I thought City of Angels was a well-made weepie. But in Moonlight Mile, Silberling comes of age as a filmmaker to be reckoned with. Expect this film to be a serious Oscar player from its release in late September all the way through the awards season. Jake Gyllenhaal has finally found the role that should answer the critics who have wondered what all the fuss is about. He has a real shot at an Oscar nomination. Susan Sarandon is a shoe-in for a Best Supporting Actress nod. (She also co-produced the film.) And while Dustin Hoffman is terrific… I don’t know. There is always a boatload of competition for Best Supporting Actor and this is not a showy performance… but maybe.
And then there is Ms. Pompeo, who is a taller, straighter, quieter Renee Zellweger… no offense to Ms. Zellweger, who may well be in Oscar contention herself this winter if she steals the show in Chicago. But there is an energy that is different between a great actress and second-tier movie star and the top players. And I saw that in Ms. Pompeo the very first time Silberling and DP Phedon Papamichael’s camera caught her. This is not a “oh-my-god-is-she-hot” thing. She is hot, but… This is a movie star thing. Seeing her on screen is like watching a racehorse run and being so drawn in by the sheer beauty of the physicality and movement that you don’t even notice that your horse has won the race going away. Trust me. You’ll see.
The movie is about a mother and a father and a fiancé who have lost their girl. (I only use the word because it is used by Sarandon in the film.) The fourth seat at this emotional bridge table is filled by Ms. Pompeo, whose character I don’t want to describe, since discovering her story is such a delight. It’s a delight because of the performance, but also because of Mr. Silberling’s script and direction.
Silberling is, right now, the film world’s master of touch… literally. Watching his work, in this film and in City of Angels, is to be aware of such delicate intimacies. Remember the heat around the clay wheel scene in Ghost. I would argue that it wasn’t the sex, but the physical intimacy. And I can’t think of anyone who is doing that better right now than Silberling. You feel the tips of fingers lingering, caressing, yearning… it’s quite beautiful. And unashamedly emotional. If I were a woman, I’d be looking for a man like Silberling. As a man, I can only hope to make a woman feel like Silberling’s women feel on screen… to have that intimacy.
The story is based, according to a variety of sources, on Silberling’s own experiences after losing his then girlfriend Rebecca Schaeffer to an act of sudden violence in 1989. That explains, perhaps, his fascination with love and loss. But the movie isn’t maudlin. It is heavy, but it never grabs you by the collar trying to force you to feel. It brought to mind losses in my life… family, loves, friends. Silberling understands those moments intimately. The little things that stay with you… the big things you just can’t face… the emotional swings… the pain… the relief… it’s all there. But Silberling also understands moving on.
I really loved this movie. Didn’t see it coming, even as I snuck into it via some Harry Knowlesian spy techniques. (Don’t get me started!) With everyone… even the stars… working just as actors, this is a movie that will have to build an audience. Disney is releasing it on the coasts and then going wide a week later. But I suspect that it will find a place in the heart of anyone who has lost and gone on to live and love again… or at least those who are willing to open themselves up to that emotional ride.
I’ll be looking forward to taking another look at the film up in Toronto next month. (Note to Disney – You want a 3pm screening… not too early in the morning and not at the end of along cranky day.) Congratulations, Mr. Silberling. You have proven that you deserve to be considered in the top group of dramatic filmmakers working today.