At 94, June Squibb Is an Action Star—And Finally a Leading Lady
Pop Culture

At 94, June Squibb Is an Action Star—And Finally a Leading Lady

“If somebody said I had to throw down to Jason Statham, come on, Jason, let’s duke this out!”

This challenge isn’t being issued by Vin Diesel or Dwayne Johnson. It’s coming from Hollywood’s newest, oldest action star: 94-year-old June Squibb.

The new comedy Thelma stars the Oscar-nominated actress as the titular grandma—the victim of a phone scam who vows to do whatever it takes to get her money back. It’s Squibb’s first outing as the lead of her own film, one she followed up with another toplining role in Scarlett Johansson’s upcoming directorial debut, Eleanor the Great. “I tell my agent, ‘If it’s not a lead and if my name is not the name of the film, I’m not doing it,’” cracks Squibb. Look at that: She’s already nailing the action star ego!

Sort of. When I come to meet Squibb at Los Angeles landmark Casa Vega, I find the actor and her assistant Kelly Sweeney patiently waiting outside the Mexican restaurant before it even opens. A regular, Squibb orders guac for the table (“Not too spicy,” she politely requests), then inspires everyone to join her in a round of pink lemonades, since she rightfully believes 11:30 a.m. is a little early for margaritas. “I couldn’t handle that. June could handle it better than me,” Thelma director, Josh Margolin, says after joining us for lunch. “I probably can,” Squibb agrees.

What can’t she do? A theater actress by trade, Squibb didn’t appear in her first film until she was 61 years old, landing a supporting role in Woody Allen’s 1990 rom-com, Alice. She immediately followed that with Scent of a Woman (starring Al Pacino) and Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence. Things went to another level when she found a champion in filmmaker Alexander Payne, who first cast Squibb as Jack Nicholson’s ill-fated wife, Helen, in 2002’s About Schmidt, and then in the real game-changer: as Bruce Dern’s brutally frank wife, Kate, in 2013’s Nebraska. The film nabbed six Oscar nominations, including a best-supporting-actress nod for Squibb’s scene-stealing turn. “I had done work, but nothing of that importance till then,” Squibb says. “All at once I was legitimate.” The best part of the Oscar recognition? “You don’t have to audition again!”

At 84, Squibb had officially arrived in Hollywood. And she’s made the most of her time since, racking up more credits in the last decade than the previous eight decades of her life. She’s done Girls, Glee, The Big Bang Theory, Shameless, Grey’s Anatomy, Palm Springs, and Toy Story 4, among many other films and series. “I don’t know what’s happening, but it’s good,” Squibb says of her belated popularity. “It’s like everybody is more interested in aging. I mean, everybody’s aging…. And the fact that we now have leading women that are 40, 50, 60, it’s wonderful. You simply did not see this before, and I guess I’m lucky that this is when I am working…. I’m reaping the goodwill of the aged.”

But despite the countless mother and grandmother roles that she’s recently piled up, none of them compared to Thelma. Margolin based the film on his relationship with his own 103-year-old grandmother, who shares the character’s name. “I couldn’t imagine anybody else; I was like, ‘It’s got to be June,’” the director says. Luckily, he got his wish after passing the script to Squibb through mutual friend Beanie Feldstein.

Originally Published Here.

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