“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is a prequel to the Hunger Games series based on Suzanne Collins’s 2020 novel of the same name. It focuses on the character of Coriolanus Snow, portrayed by Donald Sutherland in the previous films. In this prequel, Snow is a young and ambitious teenager who excels at the Academy despite being orphaned and on the verge of poverty. He is assigned to mentor Lucy Gray Baird, a tribute from District 12, for the 10th Hunger Games. Their relationship and the events of the brutal tournament shape Snow’s path towards becoming the president of Panem.

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Video by : Screen Culture (Lionsgate)

The log line for the film reads: “Years before he becomes the 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 approaching rapidly, the young Snow is alarmed when he is assigned to mentor Lucy Gray Baird, the girl tribute from impoverished District 12. However, after Lucy captures all of Panem’s attention by defiantly singing during the reaping ceremony, Snow believes he might be able to improve their chances. 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.”

The production of the film has been shrouded in mystery. At CinemaCon on April 28, 2022, attendees were given a glimpse of a cryptic teaser featuring thawing ice and the words: “The world will discover who is a songbird and who is a snake.” Despite being in production, the cast remained undisclosed. However, it was confirmed that Francis Lawrence, the director of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” (2013) and the two-part “Mockingjay” (2014 and 2015), returned as the director, with Michael Arndt co-writing the script alongside Michael Lesslie.

The cast features both established names and emerging stars. Rachel Zegler, known for her role as Maria in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” and soon to portray Snow White in Disney’s live-action adaptation, will portray Lucy Gray Baird. Tom Blyth, seen in “Benediction” and “The Gilded Age,” will play the young Coriolanus Snow. Hunter Schafer from “Euphoria” joins as Tigris Snow, Coriolanus’s cousin and advisor. Josh Andrés Rivera, who appeared alongside Zegler in “West Side Story,” takes on the role of Sejanus Plinth, Snow’s close friend and the mentor to a tribute from District 2.

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Jason Schwartzman has joined the cast as Lucretius “Lucky” Flickerman, the host of the 10th Hunger Games and an ancestor of Stanley Tucci’s character, Caesar Flickerman. The ensemble also includes Peter Dinklage as Casca Highbottom, the dean of the Academy, and Viola Davis as Volumnia Gaul, the formidable head game maker, both influential figures in Snow’s life.

Several other familiar faces will appear in supporting roles, such as Fionnula Flanagan as Grandma’am, Snow’s stern grandmother; Zoe Renee as Lysistrata Vickers, a mentor from District 12; Mackenzie Lansing from “Mare of Easttown” as Coral, a tribute from District 4; Laurel Marsden from “Ms. Marvel” as Mayfair Lipp, the one who selects Baird for the games; and Burn Gorman from “Game of Thrones” as Commander Hoff, one of the peacekeepers sent to District 12 from the Capitol. Given the success of the franchise and the potential for stardom, the cast members should be prepared for significant attention, similar to Jennifer Lawrence’s rise to fame after her involvement in the series.

On August 16, Lionsgate released the first official photo from the production, featuring Zegler as Baird and Blyth as Snow. The image depicts them holding hands and lying on a blanket in the grass, suggesting that their romance will be a central element of the story. The film aims to balance action-packed set pieces with quieter, contemplative moments.

“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is scheduled to be released in theaters on November 17, 2023. The Hunger Games series has collectively grossed nearly $3 billion worldwide, and this new addition to the franchise, with its promise of gladiatorial battles and shocking betrayals, is expected to be equally—if not more—successful. May the odds be ever in its favor.

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