Lionsgate today announced that the studio has cast Rachel Zegler (West Side Story) as Lucy Gray Baird in the studio’s highly-anticipated feature film The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, the adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ #1 New York Times bestseller (See on Amazon).
The announcement was made today by Nathan Kahane, president, Lionsgate Motion Picture Group. Zegler will star as the female lead in the film opposite Tom Blyth, who will play the young Coriolanus Snow.
The studio recently announced that moviegoers will return to The Hunger Games, the landmark film franchise that has earned over $3 billion globally, as The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes debuts in theaters worldwide on November 17, 2023.
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.
“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,” said Kahane.
“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 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.”
“Lucy Gray is an incredibly complex character, a performer who has to use every skill in her arsenal to survive. Our casting team, Deb Zane and Dylan Jury, spearheaded an exhaustive search, reading hundreds of actors in search of our perfect Lucy Gray,” said producer Nina Jacobson.
“That search ended when Rachel Zegler blew the roof off with her depth and breadth of talent as an actor, singer, and performer. 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.”
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.
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’ bestselling novel. Meredith Wieck and Scott O’Brien are overseeing on behalf of Lionsgate.
Rachel Zegler received acclaim for her breakthrough performance in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story. She 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.