May 31, 2022
Lionsgate May 31 announced it has cast Rachel Zegler (West Side Story) as Lucy Gray Baird in the studio’s upcoming The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, the adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ New York Times best-selling prequel to The Hunger Games. Zegler will star as the female lead in the film opposite Tom Blyth, who will play a young Coriolanus Snow. The movie is set to hit theaters on Nov. 17, 2023.
The Hunger Games film franchise generated more than $3 billion worldwide, making Jennifer Lawrence, who played Katniss Everdeen, a global star.
Zegler received acclaim for her breakthrough performance in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, for which she was honored with Best Actress wins from the National Board of Review and the Golden Globe Awards.
Years before he would become the tyrannical President of Panem, 18-year-old 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 Baird, the girl tribute from impoverished District 12. But, after she 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.
“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,” Nathan Kahane, president of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, said in a statement.
The film will be directed by Francis Lawrence, who previously directed the franchise’s Catching Fire, Mockingjay — Part One and Mockingjay — Part Two. It will be shepherded by franchise producer Nina Jacobson and her producing partner Brad Simpson, along with Francis Lawrence. Suzanne Collins, Tim Palen, and Jim Miller will serve as executive producers.
“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,” Lawrence said. “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.”
The latest draft of the screenplay is by Michael Lesslie (Macbeth, starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, and Assassin’s Creed). Lesslie builds on the work of writers Suzanne Collins and Michael Arndt (the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Little Miss Sunshine, as well as serving as one of the writers of Catching Fire). The screenplay is based on Collins’ best-selling novel. Meredith Wieck and Scott O’Brien are overseeing on behalf of the studio.
Zegler 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 2022. 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.