Villain origin stories are a contentious proposition, but franchises seem to love them. The latest offering in that department? A President Snow-focused prequel movie for The Hunger Games. Titled The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, the movie will be an “adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ #1 New York Times bestseller.” Recently, The Hunger Games‘ prequel found its leads. Tom Blyth will play a young President Coriolanus Snow in the movie. Meanwhile, Rachel Zegler joins The Hunger Games prequel as Lucy Gray Baird. Finally, Viola Davis has come aboard to play the villain in this villain’s origin story. And now, we even have our first look at the movie.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Trailer
The first trailer for The Hunger Games prequels goes back to the early days of the Games. We meet Lucy Gray Baird and a young Coriolanus Snow. This particular game marks when the games became as much about the spectacle as the violence and punishment. It’s a story of predators, prey, and terrible people.
The synopsis is as follows:
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes follows a young Coriolanus (Tom Blyth) who is the last hope for his failing lineage, the once-proud Snow family that has fallen from grace in a post-war Capitol. With his livelihood threatened, Snow is reluctantly assigned to mentor Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler), a tribute from the impoverished District 12. But after Lucy Gray’s charm captivates the audience of Panem, Snow sees an opportunity to shift their fates. With everything he has worked for hanging in the balance, Snow unites with Lucy Gray to turn the odds in their favor. Battling his instincts for both good and evil, Snow sets out on a race against time to survive and reveal if he will ultimately become a songbird or a snake.
The Hunger Games‘ Sequel Stars Lucy Gray Baird, Coriolanus Snow, and Casca Highbottom
Lucy Gray Baird and Coriolanus Snow
For those unfamiliar with Zegler’s role, Lucy Gray Baird is an integral part of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. She is, of course, the female lead of the story. Meanwhile, for fans of The Hunger Games, Coriolanus Snow needs no introduction. We get to meet both our lead characters in a first look image from The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, which reveals Rachel Zegler’s Lucy Gray Baird and Tom Blyth’s young Coriolanus Snow.
A release shares more about both characters. It notes:
Years before he would become the tyrannical President of Panem, 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow is the last hope for his fading lineage, a once-proud family that has fallen from grace in a post-war Capitol. With the 10th annual Hunger Games fast approaching, the young Snow is alarmed when he is assigned to mentor Lucy Gray Baird, the girl tribute from impoverished District 12. 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.
Producer Nina Jacobson adds, “Lucy Gray is an incredibly complex character, a performer who has to use every skill in her arsenal to survive. Our casting team, Deb Zane and Dylan Jury, spearheaded an exhaustive search, reading hundreds of actors in search of our perfect Lucy Gray. That search ended when Rachel Zegler blew the roof off with her depth and breadth of talent as an actor, singer, and performer. Rachel is utterly compelling; just like Lucy Gray, her voice and charisma command the stage while her inner strength and humanity transform those around her.”
The latest lead character cast in the Hunger Games prequel movie is Casca Highbottom. Peter Dinklage will play Casca. Those familiar with The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will know that Casca Highbottom was “the unintentional creator of the Hunger Games” and the first public face of them. His relationship with the Snow family is a complex one.
Producer Nina Jacobson shares in a release, “I cannot think of an actor more perfectly suited to inhabit the role of Highbottom. As the man credited with conceiving the Hunger Games and the Dean of the Academy, Casca Highbottom is a character with secrets. Peter’s magnetism, intensity, and dark humor will infuse him with the intelligence, depth, and pathos that the role demands.” Dinklage joins the film’s other two leads Rachel Zegler and Tom Blyth.
Additional Casting News for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Well, we know that ultimately, President Snow is a snake. And we’re not sure it’s ever the best time to glamorize a tyrannical politician. But hopefully, the film can use this opportunity wisely to portray its main character. We hope we don’t so much root for President Snow as end up watching him embrace monstrosity with horror.
Most recently, Viola Davis was announced as part of the cast of the Hunger Games prequel. Davis will play a villain in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Davis will play Dr. Volumnia Gaul, the head gamemaker of the 10th annual Hunger Games.” That certainly sounds like bad news.
Nina Jacobsen shares more about the role, noting, “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.”
In addition to Davis, Euphoria’s Hunter Schafer joined the cast of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. On HBO’s Euphoria, Schafer plays Jules. In the Hunger Games sequel, Hunter Schafer will bring Tigris Snow to life. Tigris is “the cousin and confidante of Coriolanus Snow.” Furthermore, Jason Schwartzman has joined the cast as Lucretius “Lucky” Flickerman. Lucky is “the host of the 10th Hunger Games and ancestor to Caesar Flickerman, who would become the voice of Panem.” Finally, Fionnula Flanagan will play Grandma’am, “young Coriolanus Snow’s (Tom Blyth) strict grandmother,” according to Deadline. Isobel Jesper Jones, Flora Li Thiemann, Honor Gillies, Eike Onyambu, Konstantin Taffet, Scott Folan, Carl Spencer, Michael Greco, Daniela Grubert, and Pacific Rim‘s Burn Gorman also join the cast.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes‘ Mentors and Tributes
The Hunger Games‘ sequel cast also includes: Jerome Lance as Marcus, one of District 2’s tributes; Ashley Liao as Clemensia Dovecote, Coriolanus Snow’s close friend, who also serves as a mentor to a District 11 tribute; Knox Gibson as Bobbin, a District 8 tribute; Mackenzie Lansing as Coral, a District 4 tribute; and Aamer Husain as Felix Ravinstill, a mentor for one of District 11’s tributes.
Additional casting for The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes further includes several more actors. Nick Benson appears as Jessup, the other tribute from District 12; Laurel Marsden as Mayfair Lipp, the person who enters Lucy Gray Baird’s name into the tenth Hunger Games; Lilly Cooper as Arachne Crane, the mentor to District 10’s tribute; Luna Steeples as Dill, one of District 11’s tributes; and Hiroki Berrecloth will play Treech, one of District 7’s tributes.
More mentors and tributes have also been added to the movie. Deadline shares that Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes has cast Max Raphael as Festus Creed, a mentor to a District 4 tribute; Zoe Renee as Lysistrata Vickers, a mentor to a District 12 tribute; Ayomide Adegun as Pliny “Pup” Harrington, a mentor to a District 7 tribute; Kaitlyn Akinpelumi as Domita Whimsiwick, a mentor to a District 10 tribute; Sofia Sanchez as Wovey, a District 8 tribute; and Amélie Hoeferle as Vipsania Sickle, a mentor to a District 7 tribute.
Finally, Deadline reveals Irene Boehm, Cooper Dillon, Luna Kuse, Kjell Brutscheidt, Dimitri Abold, Athena Strates, Dakota Shapiro, George Somner and Vaughan Reilly have come on board as various other mentors and tributes.
More About The Hunger Games’ Sequel
According to the release, “the film will be directed by Francis Lawrence, who previously directed the franchise’s Catching Fire, Mockingjay Part One, and Mockingjay Part Two.” Additionally, “it will be shepherded by franchise producer Nina Jacobson and her producing partner Brad Simpson, along with Francis Lawrence.” Finally, “Suzanne Collins and Tim Palen will serve as executive producers.” And “the latest draft of the screenplay is by Michael Lesslie.” All in all, it looks like the movie rests in good hands.
Returning to Panem will 10 years after The Hunger Games‘ first movie release will offer an interesting experience.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes premieres on November 17, 2023.
Originally published on June 23, 2022.