Lionsgate has cast Rachel Zegler, who played Maria in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, as Lucy Gray Baird in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.
The adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ novel will debut in theaters worldwide Nov. 17, 2023. The company’s Hunger Games franchise had earned over $3 billion globally when it wrapped up in 2014, and it is now looking to extend the life span with the adaptation of Collins’ latest novel in the dystopian series, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.
Francis Lawrence, who directed three of the four Hunger Games movies — Catching Fire, Mockingjay Part One, and Mockingjay Part Two — is back in the helmer’s seat with franchise producer Nina Jacobson and her partner Brad Simpson back as producers. Lawrence is also producing.
Zegler will play Lucy Gray, the girl tribute from impoverished District 12. “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, Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, said in a statement.
The prequel’s logline from Lionsgate reads: “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.”
The latest draft of the screenplay is by Michael Lesslie. Meredith Wieck and Scott O’Brien are overseeing on behalf of the studio.