More casting is warming up for the highly anticipated prequel to Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games –The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. This morning, it’s been announced that West Side Story Maria actress Rachel Zegler is joining the Francis Lawrence directed movie in the lead female role of Lucy Gray Baird. She joins recently announced Tom Blyth who’s playing the young Coriolanus Snow, that role made famous by Donald Sutherland in the original trilogy.
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.
“When you read Suzanne’s book, Lucy Gray’s emotional intelligence, physical agility, and fiercely powerful, determined singing voice shine through. Rachel embodies all of those skills – she is the perfect choice for our Lucy Gray,” said Nathan Kahane, president, Lionsgate Motion Picture Group.
“Like everybody, I first saw Rachel Zegler in West Side Story, and like everybody, I knew I was watching a star who would command the screen for a generation,” said Lawrence. “Lucy Gray is a perfect match for her as an actress: the character is bold, independent, and defiant, but also vulnerable, emotional, and loving. Rachel will make this character unforgettable.”
“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,” said Hunger Games producer Nina Jacobson.
Lionsgate recently announced that the prequel will hit theaters around the world on Nov. 17, 2023. The entire Hunger Games franchise has grossed over $3 billion WW.
Lawrence previously helmed The Hunger Games movies Catching Fire, Mockingjay Part One, and Mockingjay Part Two. Jacobson is producing with her partner Brad Simpson, along with Lawrence. Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins, Tim Palen, and Jim Miller will serve as EPs.
The latest draft of the screenplay is by Michael Lesslie (Macbeth, starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, and Assassin’s Creed). Lesslie is building on the work of Collins and Michael Arndt (Oscar-winning screenwriter of Little Miss Sunshine, as well as one of the scribes on Catching Fire). The screenplay is based on Collins’ bestselling novel. Meredith Wieck and Scott O’Brien are overseeing on behalf of the studio.
Zegler was lauded with Best Actress wins from the National Board of Review and the Golden Globe Awards for her turn as Maria in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story. She is next set to appear in DC Comics’ Shazam! Fury of the Gods alongside Zachary Levi, Helen Mirren, and Lucy Liu, which debuts in December. She is currently filming the title role in Disney’s live action Snow White, directed by Marc Webb. She is represented by ICM and Freundlich Law.
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