June Squibb Has Her First Lead Role at 94 — and Does Her Own Stunts Too: 'I Was So Proud of Myself' (Exclusive)

The Oscar nominee’s new film ‘Thelma’ premiered at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival

<p>David Bolen</p> June Squibb and Richard Roundtree in

David Bolen

June Squibb and Richard Roundtree in 'Thelma'

More than 70 years into her career, actress June Squibb has her first lead role.

As her new Mission: Impossible-inspired movie Thelma debuts at the Sundance Film Festival, the 94-year-old actress talks to PEOPLE about the secret to her lengthy career, other roles she’d like to try and the excitement of doing her own stunts.

“I always think I could do whatever stunt is necessary in a film,” Squibb says of her daring moves in the new movie, which include rolling over a bench in a glass shop and ramming her motorized scooter into that of Richard Roundtree’s.

The Oscar nominee says she was up for the physical challenge in this action-comedy about a grandmother who vows to get back $10,000 she lost in a phone scam.

Related: Celebrities Over 90 Years Old, Then & Now

Although she sticks to being a “voracious reader” in her spare time, she’s a bonafide Tom Cruise on set. The comparison actually isn’t so far off as the action star even allowed the film to use clips from Mission: Impossible.

<p>David Bolen</p> June Squibb and Fred Hechinger in 'Thelma;

David Bolen

June Squibb and Fred Hechinger in 'Thelma;

The Toy Story 4 actress says she “had a great time” performing these feats alongside Roundtree (in one of his last roles before his October 2023 death) Fred Hechinger, Parker Posey, Clark Gregg and Malcolm McDowell. The result is a touching and thoroughly funny action movie about more than just revenge.

“I was so proud of myself doing this. The scooter was great fun — it was a joy to be on that,” Squibb says, reflecting on the comfort she felt on their very “relaxed set.”

This confidence has carried her through her lengthy career from the stage in the 1950s to films like Meet Joe Black (1998) and Palm Springs (2020) and TV roles in Glee, Grey’s Anatomy, Modern Family and more.

Her secret to sustaining her impressive drive? “I never questioned myself when I was younger, and I was very independent as a child,” Squibb says. “I think I probably wouldn't still be here today working like I am if it weren't for some of that.”

June Squibb at the premiere of 'Thelma' on Jan. 18
June Squibb at the premiere of 'Thelma' on Jan. 18

Squibb’s confidence is infectious but that hasn’t held people back from doubting her or her ability to keep acting, even after her Academy Award nomination for her role in Nebraska at age 84.

Related: Jodie Foster Supports Wife Alexandra Hedison at Sundance Premiere of Her Short Film

What does she say to ageist critics? “I ignore them. I really do. I don't really listen to it or don't really care what they're saying.”

Squibb isn’t done yet. She has plans to film two more projects and was recently announced as a member of the cast in the highly-anticipated Pixar sequel Inside Out 2 which will premiere this June.

Although her career has spanned generations and genres, there is one kind of movie she’d still like to try.

“I always thought about a Western, but I don't know that I can get on a horse anymore,” Squibb says, laughing. “I used to ride when I was younger, and I've never done a Western, so I always thought that's something I'd love to do. Maybe if they can get me on the horse, I can stay on and do it.”

The full 2024 Sundance Film Festival lineup can be found here. The festival runs through Jan. 28.

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