94-Year-Old Actress June Squibb Shines in Leading Role for New Comedy Film

june squibb

June Squibb gets a frantic call from someone pretending to be her grandson, saying he had a car accident and urgently need cash. She ends up losing $10,000 to this scam. 

This familiar real-life scam is the basis for some fictional justice in the movie “Thelma,” which opened in theaters late last month. It is a comedy about a feisty senior who, on her mobility scooter, goes after the scammers to get her money back. 

She’s played by 94-year-old June Squibb. Who’s on an amazing journey herself. This is her first leading film role, even though she’s been acting longer than most everybody. 

I’ve been in theater and film for so long, you really grasp importance and determination. June Squibb explained in a video from her apartment in a Hawaiian themed complex in the San Fernando Valley for the past 20 years.That’s how I’ve always lived my life, making sure I do what I want to do” 

“As a break from the world on fire, we think people all over are ready to enjoy the brilliance of June Squibb,” said Magnolia co- heads Eamonn Bowles and Dori Begley in an email. 

Nebraska, from left: Dennis McCoig, June Squibb and Bruce Dern. PHOTO  | PARAMOUNT/EVERETT COLLECTION

‘I was confident in my decisions 

June Squibb, who’s been on stage her whole life, didn’t break into film and television until her 60s, she used to do smaller roles, at age 84, she had a surprising star turn with an Oscar-nominated part alongside Bruce Dern in 2013’s “Nebraska.” Squibb also played a roll in Pixar’s “Inside Out 2,” voicing Nostalgia. 

June Squibb, born in Illinois in 1929, began her stage career in St. Louis and Cleveland before relocating to New York to pursue singing, dancing and acting. Aside from occasionally playing a department store Santa’s helper at Christmas, she said, “I’ve managed to sustain myself through the years. 

Squibb began her expedition doing off-Broadway musicals and comedy skits at cabaret clubs, in 1959 with “Gypsy” where she shared the stage with Ethel Merman. “Looking back,” she remembered a tough time in her 30s when she danced at a Chinese restaurant. “thinking, why am I doing this? However, she understood it was all part of the journey.” 

Currently, she holds the lead role in a spirited comedy centered on a pertinent issue, elder fraud. Squibb’s character draws inspiration from real life Thelma. The 104-year-old grandmother of writer-director Josh Margolin was the victim of a phone scam like the one in his movie. 

In her role as Thelma, Squibb take cues from a “Mission: Impossible” movie, just like Tom Cruise as she tries to get back her $10,000. She’s cruising around on a scooter borrowed from her friend- turned-wingman Ben, played by “Shaft” great Richard Roundtree, who died of pancreatic cancer at 81 not long after making the movie. 

June Squibb, who maintains her fitness with Pilates, performed several of her own (low- impact) stunts, including driving the scooter and tumbling across a bed shile holding a pistol. 

Fred Hechinger (“The White Lotus”) portrays Thelma’s dedicated 20- something grandson, grappling with challenges typical of his age. He struggles with adulthood and stives to break free from his controlling parents (Parker Posey and Clark Gregg), who are also concerned about Thelma’s disappearance. 

Margolin, a first-time director who edited the film, really counted on Squibb’s knack for comedy. You can see it in the scene where Thelma recounts the stories of her departed friends and their demises. 

According to Margolin “She possesses an internal rhythm and understands how to deliver a line for both humor and emotional impact”. This skill allowed the director to maintain the film’s pace and tone authentically, avoiding the pitfalls of parody. 

According to Squibb, her second husband Charles Kakatsakis, “the toughest critic ever” an acting teacher for pushing to hone the acting skills and work on camera. They were married 40 years until he passed away in 1999. 

On television, she had a stint on the show “The Young and the Restless” which made her an expert in a single or double show appearance, as funny neighbor or a meemaw or even Michael Scott’s mom voice over in “The Office.” Some odd jobs were also pursued, for instance, featuring with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog on a short-lived Adult Swim series. 

June Squibb and Richard Roundtree in ‘Thelma’ | PHOTO: MAGNOLIA PICTURES

Energizing Jelly Beans

Squibb claimed she never wanted to become more than an effective support actor, let alone a superstar. However, Squibb’s nomination for the Academy Award as wife of a salty old man who was obsessed with a sweepstakes jackpot. Seen in Alexander Payne’s black-and-white “Nebraska” made her brand of acting highly valuable. In her upcoming movie, “Eleanor the Great,” directed by Scarlett Johansson and set in New York City, she plays an elderly Floridian who has lost her best friend. 

While on set, when Squibb’s energy dips, she finds a boost from her preferred candies: jelly beans and caramels. “My assistant hurries over with a Werther’s. It helps!” 

The actress, who will celebrate her 95th birthday in November, remains eager to explore new roles for her stage of life. “I think my work can still make a difference,” Squibb remarked, “and perhaps even be something truly remarkable.” 

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