It's been 15 years since The Hunger Games first hit bookshelves, and eight years since The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 concluded the franchise adaptation of Suzanne Collins' hit YA series, about a society in which kids are forced to kill each other for sport on live TV. Now, it's time to return to Panem.
The original Hunger Games book and movie took place during the 74th year of the Games, as Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss Everdeen began her battle against the Capitol and its tyrannical president, Coriolanus Snow (played by Donald Sutherland). The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes will tell the story of the 10th annual Hunger Games.
"It's an origin story not just of a character that we all know from the other series, but the origin of Panem and the origin of the Games," director Francis Lawrence said during CinemaCon. "To be able to go back and kind of revisit what the capital might look like not long after a war in this sort of reconstruction era... It felt fresh, and it felt new, and the tone is a little different. I think the tone is a little grittier and I would even say a little more somehow authentic."
Based on Collins' 2020 prequel novel of the same name, the story takes place 64 years before the events of The Hunger Games series and serves as an origin story for Snow as a villain. (Think of it as The Phantom Menace of the franchise.) Here is everything to know about The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes.
What is 'The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes' about?
When audiences met Coriolanus Snow in The Hunger Games, he was President of Panem, the dystopian nation in which two children — one boy and one girl — are drafted from each District to compete in the annual Hunger Games. The original series centered on Katniss, a girl from the impoverished District 12 who volunteers to fight to the death. This follows a young Snow and a different District 12 tribute.
Here is the official synopsis:
'The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes' follows a young Coriolanus who is the last hope for his failing lineage, the once-proud Snow family that has fallen from grace in a post-war Capitol. With his livelihood threatened, Snow is reluctantly assigned to mentor Lucy Gray Baird, a tribute from the impoverished District 12. But after Lucy Gray's charm captivates the audience of Panem, Snow sees an opportunity to shift their fates. With everything he has worked for hanging in the balance, Snow unites with Lucy Gray to turn the odds in their favor. Battling his instincts for both good and evil, Snow sets out on a race against time to survive and reveal if he will ultimately become a songbird or a snake.
Producer Nina Jacobson teased the movie's themes during CinemaCon, asking, "Are we worthy of freedom? Are we unable to handle freedom? What is the allure of authoritarianism? Why are people drawn to surrendering control to the government? And what makes a person want to have that kind of control?"
Is there a trailer?
Yes, there are two official trailers and you can watch them now:
When does the movie come out?
The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is slated to hit theaters on Nov. 17, 2023.
In the meantime, The Hunger Games returns to theaters for two days only on October 15 and 18, featuring an "an exclusive, never-before-seen look" The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes after the credits.
Who stars in 'The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes'?
Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow: Best known for his work on The Gilded Age and Billy the Kid, Blyth will star as Snow decades before he took power in Panem. Here, Snow is living with his grandmother and cousin, Tigris, in near ruin and hoping he will be able to capitalize on a mentor position in the forthcoming Games to reclaim his good name.
Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird: The District 12 tribute is a songstress who grew up with a traveling band of musicians called the Covey. Charming and clever, she unwittingly helps turn the Games into a television spectacle when she sings during the reaping ceremony. Considering Zegler broke out playing Maria in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story, the singing shouldn't be an issue.
"Lucy Gray is the anti-Katniss," Lawrence told Vanity Fair. "She's a musician, she's a performer, she's a charmer…. Snow has never met a girl like this before. He is a shape-shifter who craves control but is drawn to a woman who threatens everything he thought he wanted."
Viola Davis as Dr. Volumnia Gaul: The Oscar winner has been cast as the villainous Head Gamemaker. Upon Davis' casting, it was teased that, "Dr. Gaul is as cruel as she is creative and as fearsome as she is formidable. Snow’s savvy as a political operator develops in no small part due to his experiences with her as the Games’ most commanding figure."
Hunter Schafer as Tigris Snow: Having broken out on HBO's Euphoria, the actress assumes the role of Snow's trusted cousin and confidante, Tigris. Fans of the original movies will remember a brief appearance by Tigris, in all her striped glory, in Mockingjay - Part 2, when she provided Katniss' squad shelter in the Capitol.
Josh Andrés Rivera as Sejanus Plinth: Zegler's West Side Story co-star plays an Academy friendof Snow's who is recruited as a mentor for the Games. Born in District 2 and new to the Capitol lifestyle, Sejanus disapproves of the cruel experiment and serves as a moral compass, of sorts, in the film.
Peter Dinklage as Casca Highbottom: From Game of Thrones to The Hunger Games, Dinklage plays the dean of the Capitol's university, known simply as the Academy, and the original architect of the Hunger Games. He will be "the austere and vindictive face of the Games" who "sets the rules that will determine every aspect of Coriolanus' fate."
Jason Schwartzman as Lucretius "Lucky" Flickerman: Before there was Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci in the original films), there was Lucky Flickerman, who serves as host and emcee for the 10th Hunger Games.
The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes will also introduce all-new tributes and their mentors: Flora Li Thiemann as mentor Livia Carden, from District 1; Jerome Lance as tribute Marcus, from District 2; Max Raphael and Athena Strates as Festus Creed and Persephone Price, mentors to District 4 tributes Coral (Mackenzie Lansing) and Mizzen (Cooper Dillon); Amélie Hoeferle and Ayomide Adegun as Vipsania Sickle and Pliny "Pup" Harrington, mentors to District 7 tributes Treech (Hiroki Berrecloth) and Lamina (Irene Boehm); Knox Gibson and Sofia Sanchez as tributes Bobbin and Wovey, from District 8; Lilly Cooper and Kaitlyn Akinpelumi as Arachne Crane and Whimsiwick, mentors to District 10 tributes Tanner (Kjell Brutscheidt) and Brandy (Luna Kuse); Aamer Husain and Ashley Liao as Felix Ravinstill and Clemensia Dovecote, mentors to District 11 tribute Dill (Luna Steeples) and Reaper (Dimitri Abold); and Zoe Renee as Lysistrata Vickers, mentor to Lucy's fellow District 12 tribute, Jessup (Nick Benson).
Who's behind the scenes?
Lawrence (who directed Catching Fire and both installments of Mockingjay) returns to the franchise to helm The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, working from a screenplay by Oscar winner Michael Arndt (who previously adapted Catching Fire), Michael Lesslie, and Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins.
Longtime franchise shepherd Nina Jacobson is producing with Brad Simpson, with Collins and Lawrence serving as executive producers. Meanwhile, nine-time Oscar nominee James Newton Howard, who scored all of The Hunger Games movies, will be back as composer for The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes.
This article was originally published on Aug. 16, 2022.