(Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

Rachel Zegler to Lead Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games Prequel

Golden Globe winner Rachel Zegler has officially been tapped for the leading role of Lucy Gray Baird in Lionsgate’s forthcoming The Hunger Games prequel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. The prequel is currently scheduled for a November 17, 2023, theatrical release.

Zegler will star opposite Tom Blyth (Billy the Kid), who was recently cast as the young Coriolanus Snow, the main antagonist of the original film series.

“When you read Suzanne’s book, Lucy Gray’s emotional intelligence, physical agility, and fiercely powerful, determined singing voice shine through,” President of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, Nathan Kahane said in a statement. “Rachel embodies all of those skills – she is the perfect choice for our Lucy Gray.”

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“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 director Francis 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.”

Based on the 2020 prequel novel by Suzanne Collins, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is set 64 years before the events of the trilogy, starting on the morning of the reaping of the Tenth Hunger Games where an 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow is assigned as the mentor for the tribute girl from the impoverished District 12.

“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,” reads the synopsis. “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.”

Written by Michael Lesslie based on a draft by Collins and Michael Arndt, the film will be helmed by Hunger Games films director Francis Lawrence. 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. Meredith Wieck and Scott O’Brien are overseeing on behalf of the studio.

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Following her breakout role and acting debut in Steven Spielberg’s The West Side Story, Zegler’s star is continuing to rise, as she has currently lined up a number of high-profile projects including Shazam! Fury of the Gods, the live-action adaptation of Snow White, and Apple’s animated fantasy film Spellbound.


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