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The Hunger Games Prequel Movie ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ News, Release Date, Cast, and Spoilers


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The Hunger Games hive, assemble once more. Lionsgate has announced that Suzanne Collins’s new novel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snake (released May 19, 2020) will be adapted into a movie with the same title.

Discussions about a return to the world of Panem officially began in June 2019, with The Hollywood Reporter confirming that Lionsgate was “eyeing” a prequel film after the announcement of Suzanne Collins’ new novel. Now, Francis Lawrence—director of the final three films in the original series—will officially helm the project. Below, everything else we know about the project, including whether any of the OG cast members would return.

What is the Hunger Games prequel about?

The book is set 64 years before the beginning of the original trilogy and delves deeper into Panem’s historical roots. “With this book, I wanted to explore the state of nature, who we are and what we perceive is required for our survival,” Collins said in a statement about the book, via THR. “The reconstruction period 10 years after the war, commonly referred to as the Dark Days—as the country of Panem struggles back to its feet—provides fertile ground for characters to grapple with these questions and thereby define their views of humanity.”

The story centers around an 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow, long before his tyrannical reign as President of Panem. The plot summary reads: “Young Coriolanus is handsome and charming, and though the Snow family has fallen on hard times, he sees a chance for a change in his fortunes when he is chosen to be a mentor for the 10th Hunger Games, only to have his elation dashed when he is assigned to mentor the girl tribute from impoverished District 12.”

Donald Sutherland played an older version of President Snow in the Hunger Games film franchise. Although a new actor will likely be cast to play the younger character, Sutherland could appear in flash-forward scenes in the upcoming movie.

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Entertainment Weekly exclusively debuted an 11-minute excerpt of the novel’s audiobook, read by Santino Fontana (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Broadway’s Tootsie) as Snow. “You think you know someone but there are a lot of surprises,” Fontana told EW. “You’re going to understand a lot more of why he is the way he is.” You can listen to part of the first chapter here.

How long has the prequel been in development?

Studio execs were in contact with Collins while she was still writing The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. That’s not exactly shocking, given that first three Hunger Games booksThe Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjaysold more than 100 million copies upon release. The four-film franchise (the events of Mockingjay were split into two movies) earned nearly $3 billion at the global box office. It stands to reason that Lionsgate was eager for a new project set in the Hunger Games realm.

In a statement to the Associated Press, per THR, the chairman of the Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Joe Drake, said, “As the proud home of the Hunger Games movies, we can hardly wait for Suzanne’s next book to be published. We’ve been communicating with her during the writing process and we look forward to continuing to work closely with her on the movie.”

Who will steer the project?

The original franchise’s main director will return. Collins will write the film’s treatment (an outline-style first draft of the script), while screenwriter Michael Arndt (who worked on Catching Fire) will adapt the screenplay. Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson (who produced the original trilogy) will serve as producers alongside executive producer Collins. “Lionsgate has always been the cinematic home of The Hunger Games, and I’m delighted to be returning to them with this new book,” Collins said in a statement, per THR.

When will the movie come out?

During CinemaCon 2022, Lionsgate announced that The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes would be released in theaters on Nov. 17, 2023. The reveal came with a new clip teasing the production, and though it didn’t reveal the cast or any footage from the film, it “panned over striking shots of icy tree branches and a eye-catching gold as text scrolled that reads, ‘The world will discover… who is a songbird… and who is a snake,’” Variety reported. The teaser was officially released to the public in June.

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Who’s in the cast?

“Suzanne’s new book has been worth the wait. It offers everything fans could hope for and expect from The Hunger Games while also breaking new ground and introducing an entirely new canvas of characters,” Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Chairman Joe Drake said in a statement prior to CinemaCon. That meant a new set of roles would need to be cast, some that may have ties to Katniss Everdeen and Co.

In May 2022, Deadline reported that Billy the Kid actor Tom Blyth had been cast as a young Snow. Shortly after, the same outlet revealed that West Side Story star Rachel Zegler would play Lucy Gray Baird, the District 12 tribute whom Snow mentors in the Hunger Games. Finally, in June 2022, Deadline dropped additional casting news for five additional roles, most of them Hunger Games tributes or mentors: Always Be My Maybe and Fuller House star Ashley Liao will play a friend of Snow’s, the District 11 mentor Clemensia Dovecote; Jerome Lance will play District 2 tribute Marcus; Mare of Easttown actress Mackenzie Lansing will play District 4 tribute Coral; Forgive Us Our Trespasses actor Knox Gibson will play District 8 tribute Bobbin; and Hudson & Rex actor Aamer Husain will play District 11 mentor Felix Ravinstill.

Later, in June 2022, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Euphoria actress Hunter Schafer would join The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes as Snow’s “cousin and confidant,” Tigris Snow.

Given that the prequel story takes place 64 years before the events of the original trilogy, cameos from cast members including Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, or Woody Harrelson seem unlikely. The last time Lawrence was asked about appearing in a prequel film, she told Variety,“I wouldn’t be involved. I think it’s too soon. They’ve got to let the body get cold, in my opinion.” (Mind you, this was December 2015, less than a month after the release of Mockingjay Part 2.)

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