Eight years after the Hunger Games franchise was last on the big screen, the world of Panem is returning to cinemas.


The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will be based on Suzanne Collins's novel of the same name, which tells a story based in Panem 64 years before the events of The Hunger Games – particularly focusing on the younger years of antagonist Coriolanus Snow.

But it will have a very different tone to previous Hunger Games tales. Talking at a Q&A about The Ballads of Songbirds and Snakes after the film's first trailer debuted at CinemaCon, Francis Lawrence, who directed three of the four original Hunger Games movies, revealed this story will be even "grittier" than Hunger Games fans might expect.

"One of the things that really interested me in the novel itself was just the scope of the story," Lawrence said (via Deadline). "And the fact that 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. To be able to go back and kind of revisit what the Capital might look like not long after a war in this reconstruction era.

"It felt fresh, and it felt new, and the tone is different, and I think the tone is a little grittier and I would even say a little more somehow authentic."

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Producer Nina Jacobson added: "The first books were really like during the Forever Wars, you know, the endless struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan and the consequences of those wars. And the ascension of American Idol and reality television."

Read on for everything we know so far about The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes release date

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

The film has been in development since before Collins' book was even published in May 2020, and director Francis Lawrence – who helmed the final three Hunger Games films – has been confirmed to return.

Who stars in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes?

The following stars have been confirmed for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.

  • Tom Blyth as Coriolanus 'Coryo' Snow
  • Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird
  • Josh Andrés Rivera as Sejanus Plinth
  • Hunter Schafer as Tigris Snow
  • Jason Schwartzman as Lucretius 'Lucky' Flickerman
  • Laurel Marsden as Mayfair Lipp
  • Nick Benson as Jessup Diggs
  • Peter Dinklage as Casca Highbottom

Actor Tom Blyth will portray a young Coriolanus Snow, the evil president from the Hunger Games films who was portrayed as an older man by Donald Sutherland.

Meanwhile, West Side Story star Rachel Zegler will portray Lucy Gray Baird, a member of a travelling musician group from District 12 who becomes drawn into the Hunger Games.

Lionsgate previously gave fans a taste of the upcoming prequel by dropping an image of Rachel Zegler and Tom Blythe in the movie:

Zegler's West Side Story co-star Josh Andrés Rivera will portray Sejanus Plinth, a boy from District 12 whose social climbing family has made their way to the Capital. Sejanus becomes a friend to Snow.

Euphoria star Hunter Schafer takes on the role of Tigris - who was first glimpsed in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part Two - and is the cousin of Coriolanus Snow and is three years his senior.

Benson portrays the District 12 male tribute in the 10th Hunger Games named Jessup, while Ms Marvel actress Laurel Marsden takes on the role of Mayfair Lipp, the daughter of District 12's Mayor Lipp.

Peter Dinklage attends the "American Dreamer" premiere during the 2022 Tribeca Festival
Peter Dinklage has been cast as Casca Highbottom in the new prequel film Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Tribeca Festival

Hollywood star Jason Schwartzman portrays the first commentator for the Hunger Games, Lucretius "Lucky" Flickerman, an ancestor of Stanley Tucci's Caesar Flickerman in the original trilogy.

Finally, Game of Thrones legend Peter Dinklage has been cast as Casca Highbottom, one of the architects of the Hunger Games and the best friend of Coriolanus' father and the other architect of the games, Crassus Snow.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes plot

Tom Blyth attends the 2022 MTV Movie & TV Awards at Barker Hangar on June 05, 2022 in Santa Monica, California
Actor Tom Blyth will portray Coriolanus Snow in the film. Photo by Emma McIntyre/WireImage

Set 64 years before the events of the Hunger Games trilogy – The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay – the film will take place well before characters like Katniss Everdeen or Peeta Mellark were born.

Precisely, it is set 10 years after the district's First Rebellion, normally referred to as the Dark Days – with a focus on the 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow, decades before he became the tyrannical leader we know from The Hunger Games.

According to an official synopsis: "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 Tenth Hunger Games… only to have his elation dashed when he is assigned to mentor the girl tribute from impoverished District 12."

Lawrence and Jacobson previously revealed more details about what fans can expect, promising a new version of Panem.

"To be able to show a different side of Panem at a different time in its history has been really exciting," Jacobson said in a first look at the upcoming prequel for Vanity Fair. "It’s completely different stylistically, in terms of design, character, and point of view."

Lawrence added: "We also get to remake District 12, remake all of the Capitol, and a brand-new arena," which is being created by production designer Uli Hanisch, who will provide viewers with a "new version" of Panem.

"Suzanne has done such a great job of going back into the mythology and telling a story about the creation of the world," Lawrence continued. "You get a little background of Katniss. You will obviously get a lot of the background of Snow, the history of the Games, the history of some of the music, where songs like 'The Hanging Tree' actually come from."

Is there a trailer for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes?

Yes, we now have our first proper look at the star-studded cast that boasts the likes of Rachel Zegler, Viola Davis, Peter Dinklage and Tom Blyth. Watch below:

For more, check out our dedicated Movies page or our full TV Guide.


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