The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes: Everything We Know So Far

The four films in "The Hunger Games" series introduced us to Katniss Everdeen, the young woman stuck in a dystopian nightmare where the country's 12 districts send their children to fight to the death to keep them subservient to the Capitol. It's a brutal existence, both living in the districts and fighting for your life. Now we're heading back to the world of Panem, long before Katniss volunteered as tribute to take her sister Primrose's place as one of the combatants. 

The world of Panem is cruel to its children (and honestly, it's adults as well) in Katniss' time, with most of the districts starving or barely making ends meet. The Capitol holds the populace in a firm grip, and despite the dismantling of the games and the government in the later films, it was replaced by something almost more sinister ... until Katniss finds a way to take that down as well. 

In "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes," we're journeying back to when President Coriolanus Snow — played by Donald Sutherland in the first four films — was only 18-years-old. Snow was many things; cruel, monstrous, unfeeling, and brutal, but he seemed to respect the strength and cunning in Katniss. Is it because she reminded him of something within himself? 

When and where to watch The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Author Suzanne Collins published the novel of the same name at the beginning of the pandemic, back in May of 2020 with a virtual release. Just over three years later, we're going to see the film version of that book in theaters. The release date for "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes" is November 17, 2023, making it a Thanksgiving film. 

We got a teaser trailer for the film in early June, 2022, which showed us a snow-and frost-covered forest and a frozen bird and snake on a branch. Slowly the ice breaks away, showing them both to be gold and shining underneath. The snake lunges for the bird, which gives us an idea of what we're going to see.

Plans for the film's development started before the book was even published, and now most of the casting has been announced. It's actually surprising to me that they're not splitting this into two films, with the four films in the original series earning over $3 billion globally.

What we think The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will be about

"The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes" is a prequel to the "Hunger Games" series, and will tell the story of a young Snow, long before he became President. We'll see what made him who he is, as he acts as a mentor for the games. It's based on the Collins novel, so you may already be familiar with the story. Still, the "Hunger Games" films changed some things from the books (and honestly, I can't decide which I like better, which is saying something), so we might see some things we don't expect. 

Here is the official synopsis for the film:

Years before he would become the tyrannical President of Panem, 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth) 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 (Rachel Zegler), 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.

I mean, I haven't read the book, but I'm going to go ahead and guess that Snow is the snake and Lucy, with the last name Baird, is the bird. 

What we know about the cast and crew of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Tom Blyth will play Coriolanus Snow. Blyth recently played the lead role in the Epix series "Billy the Kid," and Archie Baldwin in the series "The Gilded Age." Lucy Gray Baird will be played by Rachel Zegler, the breakout star of "West Side Story." Zegler has a number of projects including "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" in post-production, the voice of Princess Ellian in "Spellbound," and the lead role in "Snow White," both listed as currently filming.

Joining the cast are Jerome Lance playing Marcus, a tribute from District 2. He's currently a student who has performed his own writing at the Donmar Showcase. Ashley Liao will play Clemensia Dovecote, one of Coriolanus's closest friends who is also mentoring a tribute. From what I do know of the story, she's a pivotal role. Liao just played the lead in "Loveboat Taipei," and the teen version of Ali Wong in "Always Be My Maybe." 

Knox Gibson will play Bobbin, who is a tribute from District 8. Gibson is an Australian actor and model who had a led role in the Netflix short "Forgive Us Our Trespasses," and is a national athlete for swimming and a disability and inclusion advocate after losing a limb in an accident at 3-years-old. Mackenzie Lansing ("The Deuce," "Mare of Easttown") will play Coral, a tribute from District 4. Aamer Husain ("Hudson & Rex") will play the mentor to a tribute from District 11. 

Josh Andrés Rivera (reuniting with Zegler after appearing together "West Side Story") has also been cast as Sejanus Plinth, a Capitol citizen who was the mentor of the male tribute of District 2, Marcus, during the 10th Hunger Games.

What else we know about the cast and crew

"Euphoria" breakout Hunter Schafer has also joined the cast as Tigris Snow, while Jason Schwartzman is on board as Lucretius "Lucky" Flickerman, described as "the host of the 10th Hunger Games and ancestor to Caesar Flickerman, who would become the voice of Panem and is played by Stanley Tucci in the original Hunger Games films."

Deadline reports that Max Raphael ("Black Beauty") will play a character named Festus Creed, a mentor to a tribute from District 4. Zoe Renee ("Jinn") has been cast as Lysistrata Vickers, a mentor to a District 12 tribute. Meanwhile, Ayomide Adegun, who is playing a young Charon in the upcoming "John Wick"-adjacent series "The Continental," will play Pliny "Pup" Harrington, a mentor to a tribute from District 7. Kaitlyn Akinpelumi ("The School For Good and Evil") will play the role of Domita Whimsiwick, a District 10 tribute's mentor. Vipsania Sickle, a mentor to a tribute from District 7, is being played by Amélie Hoeferle ("In the Shadow"), and Sofia Sanchez ("Switched at Birth") is stepping into the role of Wovey, a tribute from District 8.

More tributes and mentors were cast in early July, including Irene Boehm as Lamina, a tribute from District 7; Cooper Dillon as Mizzen, a tribute from District 4; Luna Kuse as Brandy, tribute from District 10; Kjell Brutscheidt as Tanner, a tribute from District 10; Dimitri Abold as Reaper, a tribute from District 11; Athena Strates Persephone Price, mentor to District 4's Mizzen; Dakota Shapiro as Billy Taupe, member of the Covey; George Somner as Spruce, from District 12; and Vaughan Reilly as Maude Ivory, another member of the Covey.

But that's not all, folks

One might think with this many cast members, the movie would have more than enough people to fill out its roster of characters. But you would be wrong!

Peter Dinklage ("Game of Thrones," "Avengers: Endgame") will play the key role of Casca Highbottom, the dean of the Academy and, according to director Francis Lawrence, "one of the most powerful people in Snow's life." Highbottom is also described as "the austere and vindictive face of the games."

The film will be directed by Lawrence (who directed the final three films in the franchise) from a script adaptation from Michael Lesslie ("Macbeth," but the one with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard). It will be produced by Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson with Francis Lawrence, with Suzanne Collins, Tim Palen, and Jim Miller as executive producers.