West Side Story breakout star Rachel Zegler is joining the Francis Lawrence-directed Hunger Games prequel as the lead actress. She will portray Lucy Gray Baird in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, joining the previously-announced Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow.

The prequel film, based on the Suzanne Collins novel of the same name, returns to the world of The Hunger Games 64 years before Snow would become the tyrannical President of Panem. The then-18-year-old Coriolanus sees a chance for a change in fortunes when he is chosen to be a mentor to Lucy Gray Baird, the girl tribute from impoverished District 12. The screenplay is written by Michael Arndt and Michael Lesslie.

“When you read Suzanne’s book, Lucy Gray’s emotional intelligence, physical agility, and fiercely powerful, determined singing voice shine through. Rachel embodies all of those skills – she is the perfect choice for our Lucy Gray,” said Nathan Kahane, President at the Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, on Zegler’s casting.

Rachel Zegler already has a number of high-profile projects lined up, among them the titular role in Disney’s live-action Snow White remake, and an appearance in Shazam! Fury of the Gods.

Lionsgate recently announced that The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes would release to cinemas on November 17th, 2023.

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