The Hunger Games prequel: Release date, cast, plot

Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird and Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. (Lion’s Gate)

Get ready for more complex games in dystopia with the anticipated release of The Hunger Games – Ballad of Birds and Snakes, in November 2023.

Using Suzanne Collins’ 2020 novel as its source material, the Francis Lawrence-directed film is set to focus on teenager Coriolanus Snow, 64 years before the events of the Hunger Games series starring Jennifer Lawrence.

As we learned in the original franchise, the narrow Capitol of Panem holds its hand like the 12 districts by forcing them to choose a boy and a girl, called Tributes, to compete in a sad television event called Hunger Games. .

Read more: The most controversial 12A films

The brutal and bloody games are held every year to remind the districts of past failed rebellions and not to start another rebellion. All citizens must watch as the youths fight to the death until only one remains and is victorious.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes Poster (Lionsgate)

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes Poster (Lionsgate)

In The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, we return to Panem decades earlier, with the games very much in the beginning. The plot largely follows the origin story of Coriolanus Snow, as he tries to save his family’s faded legacy, after the destruction of war.

Here’s everything we know about The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes movie so far.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes release date

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in 'The Hunger Games'.  (Credit: Lionsgate)

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in ‘The Hunger Games’. (Lion’s Gate)

Lionsgate chairman Joe Drake revealed that the film was in pre-production in August 2021 and that prequel filming began in early 2022.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will be released in cinemas on November 17, 2023, before Thanksgiving weekend in the US.

Cast The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Photo by: NDZ/STAR MAX/IPx 2022 12/6/22 Tom Blyth at the premiere of 'Pinocchio' on December 6, 2022 in New York City.

Tom Blyth at the premiere of Pinocchio in 2022. (AP)

Set six decades before the birth of Hunger Games heroine Katniss Everdeen, The Ballad of the Snakes and the Snakes will feature a whole new cast of Capitol tributes, mentors and friends.

Tom Blyth – wearing a bleached top – leads the film, the young President Snow before he becomes the ruthless President of Panem. Portrayed by Donald Sutherland in the original franchise, Snow is a stone cold tyrant who rules the areas through fear.

Blyth, who is 27 years old, is to bring a new side to the autonomous Snow and develop the complexity of the character.

Read more: The Times Square Hunger Games draw has been scrapped

The actor has played few roles so far and is known for his role in the original Epix series – Billy the Kid and as a memorable guest in the HBO series, The Gilded Age.

Lionsgate president of production Erin Westerman is excited about Blyth’s casting, describing the Julliard graduate as “an explosive rising talent” and “perfect for this lead role.”

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 09: Rachel Zegler poses at the IMDb Official Portrait Studio during D23 2022 at the Anaheim Convention Center on September 09, 2022 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Corey Nickols/Getty Images for IMDb)

Rachel Zegler poses at the IMDb Official Portrait Studio during D23 2022. (Corey Nickols/Getty Images for IMDb)

West Side Story breakout star Rachel Zegler will play Lucy Gray Baird, a defiant young tribute from impoverished District 12, who disrupts the Reaping ceremony.

“Like everyone, I first saw Rachel Zegler in West Side Story, and like everyone, I knew I was watching a star who would dominate the screen for a generation,” said Hunger Games director Francis Lawrence.

“The character is bold, independent and defiant, but also vulnerable, emotional and loving. Rachel will never forget this character,” he said.

WESTWOOD, CALIFORNIA - November 02: Jason Schwartzman attends Netflix & Klaus;  Los Angeles Premiere at Regency Bruin Theater on November 02, 2019 in Westwood, California.  (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Netflix)

Jason Schwartzman attends Netflix Premiere Klaus, 2019. (Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Netflix)

Other names associated with the foreword include Jason Schwartzman who made his film debut in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore in 1998 and went on to appear in numerous Anderson films including The Darjeeling Limited and The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Schwartzman will portray Lucretius “Lucky” Flickerman, host of the 10th annual Hunger Games.

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Actor Peter Dinklage (L) accepts an award from actress Viola Davis on stage during the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage)

Peter Dinklage (L) accepts an award from Viola Davis on stage during the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, 2015. (Lester Cohen/WireImage)

Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage plays Casca Highbottom – the Dean of the Academy, who created the baseless and vicious Hunger Games.

Also on board will be Oscan winner Viola Davis, who will play Volumnia Gaul, the conniving game-maker of the 10th annual Hunger Games. The multi-award winning actor is known for his celebrated roles in The Help, Doubt, and Fences.

Who is directing the Ballad of the Beasts and the Snakes?

PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 09: Actors Liam Hemsworth, Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson and Director Francis Lawrence attend The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 Premiere at Le Grand Rex on November 9, 2015 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/WireImage)

Liam Hemsworth, Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson and director Francis Lawrence at the premiere of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 in 2015. (Pascal Le Segretain/WireImage)

Director Francis Lawrence, who helmed three of the four original Hunger Games films, returns to helm the solo film.

In an interview with Collider, Lawrence confirmed that Suzanne Collins’ novel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will not be split into multiple films and will tell a complete story in one film.

Read more: Did Game of Thrones beat The Hunger Games?

Lawrence also expressed surprise that he was returning to the $2.97 billion franchise, as he assumed author Suzanne Collins had no real interest in writing a prequel. “It didn’t seem like she was going to write anything else,” he told Collider in 2022.

Series producers Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson are also producing with Lawrence and the script is by Michael Lesslie, building on the work of author Collins and writer Michael Arndt.

What do we know about the plot of The Ballad of the Beasts and the Snakes?

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: Donald Sutherland as Coriolanus Snow.  (Lion's Gate)

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: Donald Sutherland as Coriolanus Snow. (Lion’s Gate)

“This is very much a love story,” Francis Lawrence, the film’s director, told Vanity Fair. “This kind of love story is set in a different world in a different time.”

A prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy set in post-war Panem, we follow the journey of 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow, years before he becomes a ruthless, cut-throat president.

In this timeline, teenage Snow is the last hope of his fading lineage, a once-proud family that has fallen from grace in the post-war Capitol.

With the 10th Hunger Games fast approaching, Snow is terrified when he is tasked with mentoring a young girl’s tribute to the upcoming Games – Lucy Gray Baird.

More Katniss?... the studio manager suggests there are 'more stories to tell';  - Credit: Lionsgate

Liam Hemsworth and Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games. (Lion’s Gate)

Lucy comes from District 12 which is very poor, the same district where Katniss Everdeen’s Mockingjay champ is from.

Unlike Katniss, Lucy Gray commands Panem’s attention by interrupting the victory ceremony, when she starts singing.

When he hears free-spirited Lucy singing defiantly, Snow thinks he might be able to turn the tide in their favor and sees her victory as a way to secure his and his family’s future. The unlikely pair come together to try and win the games – while developing complex feelings for each other.

Uniting their instincts for showmanship and a newfound political sense, Snow and Lucy’s race against time to survive will ultimately reveal who is the singer, and who is the snake.

Is there a trailer for Ballad of the Beasts and the Snakes?

The first full trailer for this Hunger Games prequel arrived in late April, giving us our first real look at the world of the film. In this episode, we meet Casca Highbottom, the creator of the Dinkledge game, before he meets our new heroine, Lucy Gray Baird, played by Rachel Zegler.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes teaser trailer dropped on June 5, 2022 and didn’t reveal much about the cast or story. Instead, we saw images of a songbird and a snake covered in frost as the ice broke away, revealing a golden coat underneath.

The short trailer features distinctive music composed by James Newton Howard and also includes the cryptic message: “The world will see… who is a songbird… and who is a snake.”

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will be released in cinemas on November 17, 2023.

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