What would The Hunger Games movies have been without Jennifer Lawrence? The then-up-and-coming actress had just earned her first Oscar nomination for Winter's Bone when she signed on to the franchise and defined the role of Katniss Everdeen.

Now, Lionsgate is hoping to strike casting magic again: The studio announced that Rachel Zegler and Tom Blyth will star in the upcoming The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Zegler has been cast as Lucy Gray Baird, while Blyth playing the young Coriolanus Snow.

This story is set decades before The Hunger Games trilogy, where Snow served as the tyrannical President of Panem (as portrayed by Donald Sutherland). Here, he is an 18 year old hoping to restore his family's good name by mentoring a young District 12 tribute, Lucy Gray, in the 10th annual Hunger Games. Will the odds be ever in his favor?

"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," director Francis Lawrence says. "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."

Zegler, who will next star in Shazam! Fury of the Gods and as the title role in Disney's live action Snow White remake, previously teased her casting via a cryptic message on social media. Upon the official announcement, she tweeted, "so much joy. i love movies. i cannot believe i get to make them. i am so thankful that this is my life. thanks for being on this ride with me."

Blyth is best known for starring as the titular outlaw on the EPIX series Billy the Kid, with longtime franchise producer Nina Jacobson saying, "Tom's performance will both fulfill and disrupt everything you think you know about Coriolanus Snow. He's a tremendous talent who will show why Snow always lands on top."

For his part, Blyth reacted via Instagram Stories, "Honored and gob smacked to finally share this news. Can't wait to join this world and bring Suzanne's incredible book to life. Panem here we come."

Lionsgate celebrated with an early teaser for The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes:

Lawrence (who previously directed Catching Fire, Mockingjay Part One and Mockingjay Part Two) will helm from a screenplay by Michael Lesslie, Oscar-winner Michael Arndt and The Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is adapted from Collins' novel of the same name published in 2020.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes arrives in theaters on Nov. 17, 2023.


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