A Conversation with June Squibb

June Squibb Tribute

May 11, 2024

Some actors have cultivated such skill in their craft that their magnetism shines through no matter the size of their role. June Squibb unequivocally ranks among this upper echelon of performers. For her career full of positively unforgettable supporting roles, SIFF is ecstatic to honor her with the 2024 Golden Space Needle Award for Outstanding Contribution to Cinema.

The award will be presented to Squibb on Saturday, May 11 at SIFF Cinema Downtown and will include a conversation moderated by Variety's Jenelle Riley with questions from the audience. Prior to the event, we will host a Honoree Brunch with Squibb at Palace Kitchen, ticketed separately. See her starring role in our Opening Night film, Thelma, on May 9 at the Paramount.


Brunch & Tribute Event Ticket: $91.50 | $76.50 Members
Includes 10:00am Honoree Brunch with June Squibb at Palace Kitchen followed by the 12:30pm Tribute Event at SIFF Cinema Downtown. Be sure to have the complimentary 'Tribute to June Squibb' add on selected at check-out.

Note: The Honoree Brunch is for ages 21+, and IDs will be checked at the door. No refunds will be issued for tickets purchased with an invalid ID.

Tribute Event (Conversation) Ticket: $21.50 | $26.50 Members
Includes the 12:30pm Tribute Event at SIFF Cinema Downtown only.

Buy Brunch & Tribute Event TicketBuy Tribute Event Ticket

June Squibb was born in 1929 in Vandalia, Illinois, to Lewis Squibb, an insurance salesman who would serve in the U.S. Navy during WWII, and JoyBelle Force, a pianist who provided musical accompaniment to silent films. Squibb was an entertainer from the start, telling the New York Post, “I think I came out of the womb feeling that I was an actress.” As a child, her paternal grandparents would take her to bars to tapdance on the bartop, earning them free beers and herself rounds of applause–a win-win arrangement. The fledgling star acted in plays throughout her school career and spent her extracurricular time in high school as a cheerleader and majorette.

Squibb got her professional start as a theatrical actor with the Cleveland Play House, where she spent five years doing back-to-back shows, honing her discipline as she strengthened her acting chops (all the while reshaping her south central Illinois accent to blend in with the rest of the company). Entering the Cleveland Play House as a competent dancer, it was there that Squibb learned to sing on stage, which would set her up for the next phase of her career: the New York theater scene.

In the mid-1950s, Squibb moved to New York City, where she took acting lessons at Herbert Berghof Studio and worked on numerous off-Broadway productions. Then, in 1959, Squibb made her Broadway debut with the play “Gypsy” as Electra, a fellow striptease artist of the famed Gypsy Rose Lee. Her theater career would continue for three decades longer before she ever acted on film, during which she worked on “The Happy Time” as Felice Bonnard in the 1968 production at the Broadway Theatre and “Gorey Stories” as Mary Rosemarsh in the 1978 production at the Booth Theatre.

Squibb made her film debut at the age of 61 with the 1990 Woody Allen film Alice, playing the small role of Hilda. Since entering the world of film, she’s played an impressive number of supporting roles, perhaps most notable being her performance as the sharp-tongued, tough-loving Kate Grant in Nebraska (2013), for which she was a 2014 Oscar® nominee for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role. While growing her film and television career with larger and more complex roles, Squibb returned to her theater roots in 2018 with a stint on the original Broadway run of the hit musical “Waitress,” in which she replaced Al Roker in the role of diner owner Joe to become the first woman to play the part as Josie. After a couple months on stage, it was right back to screen for Squibb: She would reprise her role as Marion Peterson for the second season of “Good Girls,” airing in 2019, and would contribute her wonderful voice to Toy Story 4 (2019) as Margaret the Store Owner.

Squibb humbly credits her successful film acting career to her second husband, director and acting teacher Charles Kakatsakis, who encouraged her to expand her repertoire past her specialization in musical theater. She told Collider in an interview at Sundance 2024, “He literally changed my life. I mean, he made me do it ... This was the biggest thing [that] ever happened in my life because I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now if it weren’t for him.” Squibb enrolled in her husband’s acting classes in her late 30s, surrounded by young actors who knew her as the teacher’s wife, a challenging period for the actress but one that ultimately paid off: Kakatsakis was right, she had the potential to be a great actor, and she was realizing that potential. She has been ever since.

Squibb’s most recent film project, Thelma, made quite a stir when it premiered at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival for being her first leading film role after over 30 years in the industry (and over 70 years in show business). In the film, Squibb plays the titular character who goes on a quest to recover $10,000 that was stolen from her in a phone scam. The seasoned actor’s attitude toward her achievement is one of cool enthusiasm. Acknowledging in an interview with uInterview.com that “it’s lovely that it’s happened,” Squibb explained, “I don’t think much about it, to be honest with you. I just read the script, and I thought this is something I want to do. And I’ll tell you, I really have gotten to the point where if I don’t want to do it, I don’t … leading role or no leading role. But it was a great script, it was an absolute brilliant script with a woman that I felt I knew and really could love.” This drive for a career full of strong roles rather than for status and fame has undoubtedly made Squibb’s oeuvre all the more prestigious and fun to watch.

SELECT FILMOGRAPHY
Alice (1990); Scent of a Woman (1992); The Age of Innocence (1993); In & Out (1997); About Schmidt (2002); Nebraska (2014); “Modern Family” (2016); “Shameless” (2016); “Good Girls” (2018-19); Toy Story 4 (2019); Soul (2020); “Little Ellen” (2021-22); Thelma (2024)