Hunger Games series filmmaker Francis Lawrence is returning to helm the Lionsgate prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes based on Suzanne Collins’ new Scholastic novel which will be available for sale on May 19 in the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. Lawrence directed the last three Hunger Games movies: Catching Fire, Mockingjay Part 1, and Mockingjay Part 2. No word yet on casting, but this is a big project to prep up once production can safely resume post the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also returning are franchise producers Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson. Collins will write the film’s treatment and Michael Arndt, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Little Miss Sunshine will adapt the screenplay, after previously serving as one of the writers of Catching Fire. Collins also will serve as an EP.
The deal was overseen by Lionsgate Motion Picture Group chairman Joe Drake, who bought the original book during his previous tenure at the studio as head of the motion picture group. With the release of the new book, Drake made The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes a priority for Lionsgate.
The first three books in Collins’s series—The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay—have more than 100 million copies in print worldwide and have been translated into 52 languages; Lionsgate adapted these books into four feature films that grossed close $3 billion worldwide.
The prequel movie will focus on Coriolanus Snow at age 18, years before he would become the tyrannical President of Panem. Young Coriolanus is handsome and charming, and though the Snow family has fallen on hard times, he sees a chance for a change in his fortunes when he is chosen to be a mentor for the Tenth Hunger Games… only to have his elation dashed when he is assigned to mentor the girl tribute from impoverished District 12.
Commenting on the announcement, Drake said, “Suzanne’s new book has been worth the wait. It offers everything fans could hope for and expect from The Hunger Games while also breaking new ground and introducing an entirely new canvas of characters. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is creatively thrilling and takes this world to complex new dimensions that open up amazing cinematic possibilities. We’re thrilled to reunite this filmmaking team with this very unique franchise, and we can’t wait to begin production.”
“Lionsgate has always been the cinematic home of The Hunger Games, and I’m delighted to be returning to them with this new book,” said Collins. “From the beginning, they have treated the source material with great respect, honoring the thematic and narrative elements of the story, and assembling an incredible team both in front of and behind the camera. It’s such a pleasure to be reuniting with Nina, Francis, and Michael to adapt the novel to the screen, and having them share their remarkable talents, once again, with the world of Panem. I look forward to collaborating with them and all at Lionsgate as we bring The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes to theaters worldwide.”
Jim Miller, the Lionsgate executive who has served as the studio’s project executive on all of the franchise’s films, will oversee the production. Patricia Laucella and Phil Strina oversaw the rights for the book as well as all talent deals for Lionsgate. Collins was repped by Jason Dravis from The Dravis Agency and Diane Golden and Jennifer Justman from the law firm Katz Golden Lerner LLP. Lawrence is repped by CAA and 3 Arts as well as Gretchen Bruggeman-Rush at Hansen, Jacobson, Teller & Hoberman. Jacobson was represented by Julian Zajfen at Ziffren Brittenham. Arndt is repped by Verve and McKuin, Frankel & Whitehead.