A 94-Year-Old Star Actress Breaking Out this Summer

A 94-Year-Old Star Actress Breaking Out this Summer

A 94-year-old senior citizen gets a panicky call from someone impersonating her grandson. He was in a car accident. He’s in trouble. He needs cash immediately. Soon Grandma is out $10,000.

This regular real-life event serves as the basis for some fictional justice in the film “Thelma,” which releases in theaters later this month.

In June Squibb’s first leading role, she’s an action hero of sorts, taking on phone scammers—and oh, pulling off her own (gentle) stunts

This regular real-life event serves as the basis for some fictional justice in the film “Thelma,” which releases in theaters later this month. It is a comedy about an elderly vigilante who uses a mobility scooter to track down the scammers and regain her money.

She is played by 94-year-old June Squibb, who is on her own incredible trip. It is the actress’s first leading film part, although having been in the business longer than others.

“Having worked in theater and movies for so long, you understand guts and dedication.

I’ve always lived my life that way, determined to accomplish what I want to do,” Squibb said in a video interview from her apartment in a Hawaiian-themed development in the San Fernando Valley, where she’s resided for the past two decades.

Magnolia Pictures, an indie distributor that acquired “Thelma” at the Sundance Film Festival, will release the film on more than 1,000 screens on June 21. That is the largest opening in the company’s two-decade history—the indie equivalent of a blockbuster film.

“As counter-programming to a world on fire, we believe a wide swath of the country is ready to revel in the brilliance of June Squibb,” Magnolia co-heads Eamonn Bowles and Dori Begley wrote in an email.

‘I knew what I was doing’

Squibb, a lifelong stage performer, did not break into film and television until her 60s. She was a character performer spicing up minor parts till, at the age of 84, she had a surprising star turn with Bruce Dern in 2013’s “Nebraska. Squibb also appears in Pixar’s “Inside Out 2” this month as Nostalgia’s voice.

Squibb, born in Illinois in 1929, began performing on stage in St. Louis and Cleveland before travelling to New York to sing, dance, and act. Aside from the occasional Christmas job as a department store Santa’s helper she stated, “All my years, I made a living at it.”

In 1959, after performing off-Broadway musicals and comedic skits in cabaret bars, she made her Broadway debut in “Gypsy” with Ethel Merman. “But you sometimes go backwards,” she explained describing a period of poor morale in her 30s while dancing at a Chinese restaurant.

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A 94-Year-Old Star Actress Breaking Out this Summer

“I remember thinking, ‘Why am I doing this? But I understood what I was doing. I was working.

She now has top billing in a fiery comedy with a pertinent premise elder fraud Squibb’s persona was based on a genuine Thelma. Josh Margolin’s grandmother who is now 104 years old, fell victim to a phone scam similar to the one depicted in his film.

Squibb’s Thelma is inspired by a “Mission: Impossible” film and takes after Tom Cruise as she sets out to regain her $10,000. She takes to the streets on a scooter commandeered from her friend-turned-wingman Ben, played by “Shaft” legend Richard Roundtree, who died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 81 not long after filming.

Squibb, who remains active through Pilates, performed many of her own (low-impact) antics, including driving the scooter and sliding over a bed with a pistol in hand.

The younger characters, too, deal with age-related issues. Fred Hechinger (“The White Lotus”) is Thelma’s loyal 20-something grandson, who is failing at adulthood and struggling to untether from his domineering parents (Parker Posey and Clark Gregg), who both have the missing Thelma to fret about.

Margolin, a first-time director who also edited the picture, relied significantly on Squibb’s humorous timing, such as in a sequence where Thelma runs down a mental list of her late acquaintances and the circumstances surrounding their deaths.

“She has such an internal rhythm and knows how to deliver a line for a laugh and how to deliver a line to make you feel something,” Margolin stated. That ability enabled the filmmaker to create the story’s pace and tone “without tipping into parody.”

Squibb credits “the harshest critic in the world,” her second husband, acting coach Charles Kakatsakis, with pushing her to develop the artistic tools and discipline required for dramatic parts and camera work. They had been married for 40 years until he died in 1999.

On television, she had a run on “The Young and the Restless” and became a master of the one- or two-episode appearance, appearing as a quirky neighbor, a meemaw, or the voice of Michael Scott’s mother in “The Office.” Weirder gigs were also welcome, such as co-starring with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog on a short-lived Adult Swim series.

Jelly beans for energy

Squibb stated that she never aimed to be more than a useful character actor let alone a star. However her Academy Award nomination as the salty spouse of a guy infatuated with a plainly fraudulent sweepstakes windfall in Alexander Payne’s black-and-white “Nebraska” increased demand for Squibb-ian zest.

She recently completed filming in New York for her next big role, as the title character in Scarlett Johansson’s directorial debut, “Eleanor the Great,” about a Florida senior who relocates to New York alone after losing her best friend.

When Squibb’s energy runs low on set, she turns to one of her favorite candies: jelly beans and caramels. “My aide comes rushing over with one of the Werther’s. “It helps!”

The actress, who turns 95 this November, claimed she still has more to explore in roles for her stage of life. “There is no reason why my work can’t continue to be good,” Squibb said, “and maybe even very special.

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