May the odds ever be in our favor as the long-awaited “Hunger Games” prequel film heads for theaters.
Based on Suzanne Collins’ novel “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” the prequel film will reveal the origin story behind the world of viral “The Hunger Games” series, which starred Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, and Josh Hutcherson in a love triangle at the root of the post-apocalyptic life-or-death tournament comprised of teen tributes.
Director Francis Lawrence returns to the franchise to helm “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” introducing a whole new crop of tributes. Screenwriter Michael Lesslie (“Assassin’s Creed”) pens the script. The origin story of Panem President Coriolanus Snow, played by Donald Sutherland in the original movies, is also unveiled, with “The Gilded Age” breakout star Tom Blyth cast as the young Coriolanus. Rachel Zegler is starring in the lead role. The film is slated to premiere in theaters November 17, 2023.
Find out all the details on “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” below.
What’s the Plot?
“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is set during the 10th-annual Hunger Games. An 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth) is selected to mentor District 12 tribute Lucy Gray Baird, played by “West Side Story” and “Snow White” star Rachel Zegler.
Coriolanus is the “last hope for his fading lineage, a once-proud family that has fallen from grace in a post-war Capitol,” per an official Lionsgate synopsis. “But, after Lucy Gray commands all of Panem’s attention by defiantly singing during the reaping ceremony, Snow thinks he might be able to turn the odds in their favor. Uniting their instincts for showmanship and newfound political savvy, Snow and Lucy’s race against time to survive will ultimately reveal who is a songbird, and who is a snake.”
Meet the Cast
“Billy the Kid” and “The Gilded Age” actor Tom Blyth will portray the younger version of Donald Sutherland’s iconic ruler Coriolanus Snow. Blyth also recently starred in Terrence Davies’ Siegfried Sassoon biopic “Benediction” as World War I-era theater actor and director Glen Byam Shaw.
After being selected by Steven Spielberg and making her film debut in the Oscar-winning “West Side Story,” Rachel Zegler is set to appear in “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” “Snow White,” and animated feature “Spellbound.” Zegler will star as the mysterious newcomer Lucy Gray Baird, who will fight for her life in the Hunger Games.
Sipa USA via AP
Zegler’s “West Side Story” co-star Josh Andrés Rivera is set to portray Coriolanus’ friend Sejanus Plinth. “Euphoria” breakout star Hunter Schafer has been cast as Tigris, Coriolanus’ cousin and confidante, who is a Capitol stylist. Eugenie Bondurant played Tigris in the original franchise, with “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” revealing Tigris’ familial connection to Coriolanus.
These Tributes (and Mentors) Are Out for Blood
Jerome Lance plays Marcus, Lucy’s fellow tribute from District 12. Ashley Liao stars as Clemensia Dovecote, one of Coriolanus’ closest friends and mentor to a tribute from District 11. Aamer Husain stars as Felix Ravinstill, another mentor to a tribute from District 11. Knox Gibson will be Bobbin, a tribute from District 8, while “Mare of Easttown” alum Mackenzie Lansing is Coral, a tribute from District 4.
Additional cast members include Max Raphael as Festus Creed, a mentor to a District 4 tribute. Zoe Renee, hot off of Sundance award winner “Master,” portrays Lysistrata Vickers, mentor to a tribute from District 12. Ayomide Adegun is set to star as Pliny “Pup” Harrington, a mentor to a District 7 tribute. Kaitlyn Akinpelumi will star as Domita Whimsiwick, mentor to a tribute from District 10. Ukrainian actress and advocate Sofia Sanchez is set to portray District 8 tribute Wovey, with Amélie Hoeferle as Vipsania Sickle, a mentor to a District 7 tribute.
Irene Boehm will play Lamina, a tribute from District 7. Cooper Dillon is Mizzen, a tribute from District 4. Luna Kuse is set to star as Brandy, a tribute from District 10. Kjell Brutscheidt will be another District 10 tribute named Tanner. Dimitri Abold is Reaper, a tribute from District 11.
Athena Strates will play Persephone Price, mentor to District 4’s Mizzen. Dakota Shapiro is set to play Billy Taupe, member of the Covey. George Somner will play Spruce from District 12, and Vaughan Reilly is Maude Ivory, another member of the Covey.
Jason Schartzman Is the Master of Ceremonies
Jason Schwartzman was officially confirmed to play Lucretius “Lucky” Flickerman, the host of the 10th Hunger Games and ancestor to Caesar Flickerman, who would become the voice of Panem and is played by Stanley Tucci in the original “Hunger Games” films.
Peter Dinklage Is the Hunger Games Founder
“Game of Thrones” alum Peter Dinklage is set to star as Casca Highbottom, dean of the Academy and founder of the Hunger Games. Dubbed a “character with secrets,” director Francis Lawrence teased that Casca (Dinklage) is a mentor to a young Coriolanus Snow, played by Tom Blyth.
“Dean Highbottom is one of the most powerful people in Snow’s life,” Lawrence stated. “As the austere and vindictive face of the games, he sets the rules that will determine every aspect of Coriolanus’s fate. I’m thrilled that Peter will be bringing him to life.”
Oscar Winner Viola Davis Is a Villainous Head Gamemaker
Academy Award winner Viola Davis will be starring as Dr. Volumnia Gaul, the head gamemaker of the 10th annual Hunger Games, IndieWire can confirm. The “Woman King” actress will be “as cruel as she is creative and as fearsome as she is formidable,” according to director Francis Lawrence.
Dr. Gaul’s mentor relationship with future rule Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth) is rooted in her being “the games’ most commanding figure.”
Producer Nina Jacobson shared, “From the beginning, Viola has been our dream for Dr. Gaul because of the finely layered intelligence and emotion she brings to every role. A brilliant and eccentric strategist, Gaul is instrumental in shaping a young Coriolanus Snow into the man he will become. We are incredibly fortunate to have an actor with Viola’s extraordinary range and presence to play this pivotal role.”
“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is scheduled to premiere in theaters from Lionsgate on November 17, 2023.
A teaser trailer for the film showing snow-covered branches, icy snakes, and golden songbirds (a Mockingjay, perhaps?) debuted in June 2022.
“You’re invited to return to the Games in 2023,” the clip teased. “The world will discover who is a songbird and who is a snake.”
Rachel Zegler and Tom Blyth transform into their respective roles for a teaser photo hinting at the love story between tribute Lucy (Zegler) and mentor Coriolanus (Blyth).