Fresh off her breakthrough role in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, Rachel Zegler will star in Lionsgate’s planned Hunger Games prequel.
The studio announced Tuesday (May 31) that Zegler will play Lucy Gray Baird in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, an extension of the Hunger Games saga that takes place decades before the adventures of Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen. Katniss played in the 74th Hunger Games; Baird will be a part of the 10th Hunger Games.
Suzanne Collins, whose books were adapted into the $3 billion blockbuster franchise, in 2020 published a prequel novel upon which The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is based. In the film, Lucy Gray Baird, a tribute from the impoverished District 12, sings in a pivotal moment during the reaping ceremony. Zegler stars opposite Tom Blyth, who plays the 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow.
A description of the prequel explains, “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.”
“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,” said producer Nina Jacobson in a statement. “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.”
Lionsgate is to release the movie in theaters Nov. 17, 2023. Francis Lawrence directed three of the four Hunger Games movies, Catching Fire, Mockingjay Part One and Mockingjay Part Two.
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