Oscar Nominee and 'Girls' Guest Star June Squibb Is Pals with Jared Leto

On Sunday night, you're going to have to choose your preferred variety of June Squibb.

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On Sunday night you're going to have to choose your June Squibb: Do you want to see the 84-year-old star of Nebraska glammed up at the Oscars where she's nominated for Best Supporting actress? Or do you want to see her on Girls playing Hannah's grandmother? For her part, Squibb told The Wire in an interview this week that the choice is really up to you.

Squibb, of course, was this year's most veteran breakout star as the unexpectedly saucy matriarch in Alexander Payne's Nebraska.  In this week's Girls she's Hannah's hospitalized grandmother, who is also fairly blunt when it comes to her opinions on marriage.

We talked to Squibb about her excellent year and her big Sunday night.

Tell me a little bit about your Oscar preparations.

I think I'm going to be at the Four Seasons, and they will come there, my hairdresser and makeup and my stylist with the dress. So it will be done there, and that's kind of it.

Are you excited about your dress? 

Oh, yes, very. It's just stunning. Tadashi Shoji is making it. I'm really thrilled with it. It's just great.

Are you nervous at all for the ceremony on Sunday? 

I'm not nervous. I'm excited about it. I don't really get too nervous about much anymore.

What are you most excited about? 

Well, just being there. You know I've never been to one before, and it will just be thrilling to see what happens and how it happens. We'll have a car and will be driven there. I'm sure that will be a mess. We've done that before with the Golden Globes and SAG, and it can be a little hairy, just trying to get your car to let you out.

Your episode of Girls is airing opposite the Oscars. What do you recommend people watch live? 

I think there are a lot of people that don't watch the Oscars, so they of course should watch Girls, and I guess for everybody else it's just which one you want to watch and which one you want to tape or see later. It's so easy now, with all the on demand stuff to see something later.

Can you tell me a little bit about how you got approached for the role on Girls

It was very exciting. I loved doing that. I have an agent that is on both coasts. I live out in Los Angeles now, and the New York agent called and said that they were interested in me playing her grandmother, and would I tape. I taped scenes from the script, and they asked me to do it. So I came into New York to do it.

It's a show with such conversation around it; were you excited to get involved with that?

Yes, because from the minute that I was told they wanted me to fly into New York and do it and I would say something about it out here and everybody was so thrilled. I live in a complex, a fairly large complex, and I know quite a few women in their 30s, 40s, 50s, younger than I am, and they were all just beside themselves with the idea I was going to do Girls. I realize that especially for women it touches a spot that people see it and it's important. It's an important show. 

Had you watched the show beforehand? 

I had watched it. I hadn't seen it every time. I had watched it enough to see what it was. So I was pleased. I certainly knew that was very popular, that it was a show that an awful lot of people were seeing. I also knew that I would be shooting in a hospital. And that's why were on [Roosevelt Island] because there was a hospital there that was not being used. In fact they were taking most of everything out of it. So we would go down long halls that were, say, filled with chairs. It was kind of spooky in a way because so much in the hall waiting to be gotten out of there.

So it was sort of abandoned? 

Yeah. Except for when were working it was perfect. All the rooms we were using were beautifully done with lights and people and everything.

There are a lot of great actresses that appear in that episode to play Hannah's relatives, like Amy Morton and Becky Ann Baker, who plays Hannah's mother...

Oh yeah. It was great. I knew Becky Ann—in fact we share the same agent, so I do know her. I hadn't met the other two women playing her sisters—Hannah's aunts. And we did a lot of improvising, which I understand they do on that set. Oh it was great fun.

Can you talk about experience of improvising with them? 

Well, it's been quite a while, but I just remember we got a little crazy with it. We got so tickled with ourselves, we just were kind of all over the place. I don't know what they've used, but I saw Judd Apatow at one of the guild award shows recently and he said that it came out beautifully. He was very thrilled with it and I think they did use some of the improv stuff.

You're getting this reputation for playing sort of ornery, and I think this carries through—

It's funny because before, I did my share of sweet ladies, God knows. In fact, I had done About Schmidt with Alexander Payne, playing a sweet lady and he didn't think I was right for Nebraska.

Because you were too sweet? 

Yes! He thought I was that sweet lady from About Schmidt. He really didn't think I was right for it.

In terms of this past year for you: I was wondering how Hollywood and the business has changed in your eyes. 

I feel sort of like I belong out here. I was like in my 60s I think when I started film, because I had worked on stage my whole life. So in that respect I think it took a while to get comfortable out here, but I have been comfortable and working out here for quite a bit for quite a few years. I certainly feel now that I'm a part of a community. That's one thing this has done. I see people I know that I have met through all of this and everything. It's different.

You've said you've become friends with Lupita Nyong'o through the awards circuit. It seems like it's such a competition, but there's a camaraderie. 

Oh very much so. I haven't met everybody that's in my, you know, section or whatever you call it. My group. But Lupita, and Julia Roberts came up at one of the awards and introduced herself, and her husband who was with her, and that was so charming of her I felt. I've met so many others—like Jared Leto. He and I spent an evening at Santa Barbara together for the Virtuosos Award. So when I see him now it's like, oh God an old friend.

You did that very funny video for Jimmy Kimmel. How did that come about? 

They knew I was going to appear on the show and I think because of Nebraska people think of me with funny—a lot of the stuff in that was very funny. So they asked if I would do a comedy and so we said yeah I would. We spent, oh, probably an hour dealing with it. And I didn't think much about it. At the end of our interview with Jimmy Kimmel he said, that was great, the monologue you did, and he said it's going to go on YouTube. So the next thing I know I'm being told that I've gone viral on YouTube, which was a new experience for me. I guess it's gotten an awful lot of hits and people are commenting on it to me now. I was just doing something that I thought was very funny. I thought that was a funny idea.

Do you have a favorite moment from the past year? 

Well, I think Cannes probably was the most exciting, because it was the first and we were in France. And no I did not see a thing of France, all I saw was the airports and then we got there and it was all about the press and then our opening, so it was very fast. But I'll tell you that's the first that all of us realized what was happening. I think we all thought it was very special, we had loved making it every minute of it, but I don't think any of us dreamt that it would do what it is doing in terms of the awards season. But the next day after our premiere we were still in France and people were handing me press clippings written and they were from all over the world and what they were saying it was phenomenal. Both Bruce and I—the talk was "Of course these two will be up for the Academy Awards." Well, that was the first I had heard of it. So it was just very exciting to have an international answer to what we had done.

So many people are discovering you work now, is there any thing that you're particularly proud of that you would like people to seek out from the pre-Nebraska era June Squibb? 

One film called In & Out, which is funny. I always loved doing it. I loved doing it and the director and the actor. It was great fun to do. I think if people are interested in seeing me earlier, that's a great one to see.

People have passed around the photo of you as Electra in Gypsy. Did you see that getting shared? 

Yes. Some of them I had never seen for a long time. I didn't have. I have some old photos that they ask will you bring some photos. I'm able to find them and get them to them. Who was it? I think it was was Queen Latifah or Jimmy Kimmel—one or the other—had a photo that I hadn't seen in years. I didn't have at all. So I don't know even know where they got it. I think it was Kimmel. I think he had one of my 8 by 10s in the 60s, and then he had a shot of me doing a bump actually in Gypsy.

Honestly, June, I would love to see you do that number even now. 

 Oh I think not! 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.