June Squibb got famous in her 80s. As a 94-year-old movie star, she doesn’t plan to stop working.

    June Squibb got famous in her 80s. As a 94-year-old movie star, she doesn’t plan to stop working.

    Netflix, David Bolen, Paramount, Abanti Chowdhury/BI

    Some actors spend years working toward career milestones like landing a leading role in a movie or earning an Oscar nomination.

    June Squibb spent three decades.

    The 94-year-old star of the action comedy “Thelma” has been honing her craft since 1959, when she made her Broadway debut in “Gypsy.” It wasn’t until 1990, after three decades of working as a stage actor, that she made her film debut at 61. Another two decades after that, Squibb became one of the oldest people ever nominated for an Oscar for her performance in the 2013 Alexander Payne film “Nebraska” at 84.

    The fact that it took 10 more years after that for Squibb to become a bona fide leading lady as the title character in “Thelma” doesn’t bother her — she was never explicitly working toward these milestones in the first place.

    “I mean, I knew she was the leading role,” Squibb told Business Insider. “But it doesn’t mean that much, really. It doesn’t change how I prepare, or what I do when I’m working. It’s all the same.”

    Squibb and Fred Hechinger in “Thelma.”

    Magnolia Pictures

    The film, which is written and directed by Josh Margolin — and loosely based on his own grandmother, Thelma Post — follows an older woman who falls for a phone scam and mails away $10,000. When her family and the police fail to help her get it back, Thelma takes matters into her own hands, zipping across Los Angeles on her friend’s two-seater scooter on a journey for revenge.

    The film is a fitting vehicle for Squibb’s versatility as an actor, allowing her to showcase both vulnerability and unhinged glee in a role that’s not often written for nonagenarian characters. With reviews already praising her star turn and suggesting she should have been leading movies for much longer, Squibb is happy to oblige.

    “I guess there will be a point where I will just sort of feel that I don’t want to do it anymore,” Squibb told BI of planning to continue acting. “I haven’t reached that. I do want to do it.”

    For the latest interview in Business Insider’s “Role Play” series, Squibb reflected on her collaborations with Payne, how a guest spot on “Glee” led to one of her closest friendships, and why she doesn’t have any regrets about her film career.

    Squibb and Bruce Dern as Kate and Woody in Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska.”

    Paramount Pictures

    On fighting to audition for ‘Nebraska’

    You got your first Academy Award nomination for Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska,” and that’s been called your breakout role. But you had been working in film for almost 25 years at that point. Did it ever feel bizarre to have people call that role a “breakout” when you’d done so much before?

    [Before “Nebraska”] I did a film called “In and Out.” I had a very small role in it but it was very funny, and I got the biggest laugh in the film. All at once, a lot of people knew who I was.

    But I think the biggest thing [before “Nebraska”] was “About Schmidt.” I have to thank Alexander Payne because both [‘”Nebraska” and “About Schmidt”] I did with him, and they have made a tremendous difference. And I think “About Schmidt,” I don’t know — it made me legitimate. It somehow threw me into being a legitimate film actress.

    Squibb and Jack Nicholson in the Alexander Payne film “About Schmidt.”

    New Line Cinema

    What was it like playing opposite Jack Nicholson in “About Schmidt?”

    Jack was a gentleman and never made me feel lesser than him. Everything that we did together was on a level of peer, period. It really was. And I give that credit to him.

    I didn’t always even know what I was doing, and he could have come in and made that difficult, but he did not. In fact, it was just the other way. There was such respect from him through the whole period.

    “Nebraska” has such a strong ensemble cast, but you steal every scene you’re in as Kate, who seems like such a treat to dig into as an actor. After working with Payne on “About Schmidt,” what did your audition process look like for “Nebraska?”

    Strangely enough, both times — “About Schmidt” and “Nebraska” — they didn’t want to see me, believe it or not!

    The first time they felt, I think, they were trying to get people from LA because they knew they were shooting in Omaha, but my agents were insistent that they at least let me do a tape for them or something. So finally they did, and Alexander told me when he got it, he said, “I knew that you were the role. I knew you were it.”

    And then we came to “Nebraska,” and again, [my agents] see Kate and they start pushing. And the casting director, who knows me very well, says, “Oh, Alexander loves June, but we just don’t think she’s right for this.” He had in his mind that sweet little lady from “About Schmidt,” and that’s what he thought. After much nattering from agents, they said, “Oh, put it on tape.” So they sent me the script, and I put one or two scenes on tape.

    And again, Alexander said to me, “My God, June, I had no idea you could do this.” He said, “You were Kate.”

    So neither one! Isn’t that funny? Because we have a great relationship, and I’ve worked twice with him, and they’ve made tremendous differences in my career, but neither one was a set thing. People feel that after “About Schmidt” he probably asked me to do “Nebraska.” No, he didn’t. He thought I couldn’t — thought I wasn’t right for it.

    On becoming besties with Chris Colfer through ‘Glee’ and working with Adam Sandler

    Chris Colfer and June Squibb duet “Memory” from “Cats” on “Glee.”


    You’ve done a lot of television, but there’s one guest spot I have to ask about: “Glee.” You played a retired Broadway legend and belted out Madonna and “Cats” with Chris Colfer. What was it like returning to your theater roots on television?

    It was wonderful because I met Chris, and we are now close friends. He’s like a member of my family. And it was funny, because he wrote that episode, and they wanted me for it. And I’m so glad that I said yes to it, because it opened my whole relationship with him from that time on.

    I loved doing it. I had never sung much on film. I had certainly sung an awful lot onstage, but there’s a difference — it’s so technical… So that was interesting to me. And it was fun. All the young people, oh God, we were dancing and singing all over the place.

    June Squibb in “Hubie Halloween,” an Adam Sandler movie where she wears a few questionable t-shirts.


    You wear some very memorable T-shirts in “Hubie Halloween.” Tell me a bit about working with Adam Sandler on that film.

    He is such a leader. He is a real leader. He takes responsibility for everybody on his film set, and that’s admirable. I mean, because there has to be a leader. It’s usually the director.

    But with him, because of his position, he became the leader, and everybody had such a good time. I think that surprised me in a way. I mean, not that you don’t enjoy your time shooting, but this was almost like a party all the time. And I think he knows everybody so well. That was the first time I had worked with him, but most everybody else had worked with him before and knew him very well.

    On family dinners with Will Forte and the future of her career

    You’ve had so many fun and notable costars over the years. Who was the most fun to hang out with on set, or on the awards circuit?

    Oh, Will Forte, with “Nebraska.” He is such fun. He’s so bright, so clever, and we got along beautifully. After we finished shooting, we would have dinner together about every month.

    We would gather up whoever we were talking to from the crew or the cast, and I would bring my son, and he would bring his girlfriend of the time. But it was just such fun. I loved him. I still love him. I saw him not terribly long ago. He has two little girls now, so it’s grown. His wife and two little girls, we had brunch together.

    Has there ever been a moment that you remember turning down a role, or regretting doing so?

    No. I don’t turn something down lightly, so it takes me some time. But once I’ve done it, I feel I’ve done the right thing.

    On the flip side, was there ever something you were going for and didn’t get that still sticks with you?

    I don’t think in film. I don’t think I’ve ever had my heart set on something in film that I didn’t get, or that I wasn’t handed. Stage, yes. Because I went through a lot of time onstage where I felt there was a role I should have done, or should have been able to do.

    As you look toward the rest of your career, do you plan to keep working for as long as you want to?

    I guess I am. I don’t know the answer to that. I sometimes wonder, and I have said to my agent, “How much longer am I going to be doing this?” And they say, “Well, people still want you to work. People still want you to do things.”

    There’s one or two things in the future now. I don’t know that I will do them, but I don’t know that I won’t either.

    This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

    “Thelma” is in theaters now.

    Read the original article on Business Insider


    Latest posts