Francis Lawrence On Lucy Gray & Katniss Everdeen

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Summary

  • The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is an origin story of Snow, set 64 years before Katniss Everdeen, and explores the origins of various elements in the Hunger Games universe.
  • Director Francis Lawrence was excited to dive back into the world of The Hunger Games and found it fun to create a period piece within Panem, using practical locations in Berlin and Poland.
  • Rachel Zegler, who plays Lucy Gray, brought charisma, mystery, and a phenomenal voice to the role, singing all her songs live on set. The film can be enjoyed as a standalone experience, introducing audiences to the world of The Hunger Games.


The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is set 64 years before Katniss Everdeen forever changed Panem. During the tenth annual Hunger Games, an eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is looking for a way to regain his family’s power. He is assigned Lucy Gray Baird’s mentor for the games, much to his initial distaste. However, Lucy stands out from the others, making Snow believe they may have a chance. This will be the year that forever changes the course of the Hunger Games, leaning into showmanship as a way to regain the attention of those in the capital. However, things take a dark turn as Snow’s ambition continues to lead his judgment, even as Lucy shows him a new path.

Francis Lawrence returns to The Hunger Games franchise to direct The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes. The screenplay was penned by Michael Lesslie and Michael Arndt based on Suzanne Collins’ novel of the same name. The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes stars a powerhouse cast led by Rachel Zegler, Tom Blyth, Josh Andrés Rivera, Hunter Schafer, Jason Schwartzman, Peter Dinklage, and Viola Davis.

Related: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes’ Title Is A Hidden Katniss Reference – Hunger Games Theory Explained

Screen Rant interviewed director Francis Lawrence about his newest Hunger Games movie, The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes. He shared how Lucy Grey is different from Katniss Everdeen and that Zegler performed all of her songs live in the movie. Lawrence also discussed making a period piece set in Panem and why he trusts Collins to lead the way with the franchise.


Francis Lawrence Talks The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes

Screen Rant: Francis, eight years since the last Hunger Games movie, and I feel like it’s been eight years too long. I love this movie. How excited were you to dive back into the world of The Hunger Games, and what excited you the most about exploring the lore of what we see here in the prequel?

Francis Lawrence: I was really excited. I have to say when we finished Mockingjay, there were no plans for other books. Everybody sort of thought they were done and then Suzanne surprised us in 2019, saying, Hey, guys, guess what? I’m almost done with a book. I was like, wow, okay. I think because Nina and I had both gone off and done some other things. The idea of going back into the world of The Hunger Games was super, super exciting.

And then even more so when we read it, and saw that it’s a very different kind of story. That it’s an origin story of Snow. That there’s this musical element. That its almost a period piece to the others. That we could create. new games and new version of the city, the Capital. And also because what Suzanne did so brilliantly is sort of show the origins of lots of things we’re familiar with.

The origins of the hanging tree, seeing the hanging tree. Hence the origins of Katniss, Snow’s relationship to district 12, and to Katniss. Tigress and her relationship to snow and so many things. So super, super fulfilling and fun, and really exciting.

I’m holding out hope this isn’t the end, by the way, because I hope that there’s still more to come.

Francis Lawrence: I’m hoping there’s more to come too, but that’s all dependent on Suzanne. Yeah, we’ve always said it comes from Suzanne first and then we’re in.

Now, how important was it for you in the casting process to find somebody that audiences can empathize with, but also believe that they’re going to go down this villainous path in the future?

Francis Lawrence: It’s very important, but I think honestly, that was more of a concern in the adaptation of the book to the screenplay to make sure that we got the characterization, right, the plotting of the character, right, and the character journey, right. So we set them up so that a character will root for and be behind them, but leave the sort of trail of breadcrumbs and understand that he still has this need for ambition, the need for power, the need for greed, right? So when he does go dark, which I think people find very satisfying. It feels believable and honest and truthful.

It absolutely does. Now, can you talk to me about the challenges of making a period peace within the world of Panem? Because you use practical locations for this, for the most part, right?

Francis Lawrence: I found it less challenging and more fun, quite honestly. I think, A, I wanted to shoot in as many real places as possible. And I worked with production designer, Uli Hanisch. He’s a German based production designer. And we wanted to research where we could find the best kinds of locations for all of this. And our reference was sort of Reconstruction Era Berlin, so around 45-46, right after World War II.

So we ended up shooting primarily in Berlin because of that, and I had some experience shooting there. He’s based there, we found a perfect Arena in Poland. And so we just found unbelievable locations that we could shoot in and then at times augment digitally, but at least we’re in real places. The actors had real things to interact with in real environments that were immersive.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes; The Hunger Games

I love the character, Lucy Gray, and I think Rachel Zegler can do anything. What did she bring to the role that wasn’t on the page?

Francis Lawrence: Well, I think she brought a lot of what we needed that was on the page, which is all the different facets that we needed for Lucy Gray. Lucy Gray is very different than Katniss Everdeen. She’s a performer, she’s charismatic, she’s sort of effervescent. She’s a little mysterious, a little mercurial. She knows how to manipulate she’s more of a flirter she’s an extrovert. Katniss and her are both survivors on both smart, they just sort of approach it differently.

So she was able to do all that. There’s a big music element to this movie and she has a phenomenal voice. And so that is something that she really brought with her that was unbelievable to listen to every day. And she’s saying live on set. She was not lip synching to pre records or anything. Every every scene you see her sing in the movie, she sang live.

Oh, that’s incredible. Now, I know that you’re a fan of this franchise, just like I am. So in your own opinion, if there was a prequel or a sequel, where would you like to see that take place? And do you have a character that you’d like to see kind of focus on just as a fan?

Francis Lawrence: No, I know. I mean, it’s funny, because what I really like about these is that Suzanne always writes kind of from theme, right? She picks a theme that she wants to write about, and then figures out the characters and the moments in the place within the world that she wants to tell the story.

And that I really appreciate. And without that, I don’t know, it just starts to feel sort of superficial to me. And so for me, I always look for Suzanne to find that thing that she has something to say about, and then build a story around it. And that’s kind of what she did here and why we waited for her to come up with the book.

Yeah, I actually think this film also does a fantastic job of introducing audiences to this world without knowing anything else about it and you can dive right in. I think it does a great job at that.

Francis Lawrence: Thanks. Yeah, I mean, we did design it in a way that it could stand alone. Yhat you didn’t have to read the first books, see the first movies, you could come in and just meet these characters and experience this movie, and it’d be a satisfying experience.

About The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes

The Hunger Games ballad of songbirds and snakes

Tells the story of the origins of the future President Coriolanus Snow, as he mentors District 12 tribute Lucy Gray Baird in the 10th annual Hunger Games.

Check back for our other interview with Nina Jacobson.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes arrives in theaters on November 17.

Source: Screen Rant Plus

  • The Hunger Games The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Poster

    The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

    Release Date:
    2023-11-17

    Director:
    Francis Lawrence

    Cast:
    Tom Blyth, Rachel Zegler, Hunter Schafer, Jason Schwartzman, Peter Dinklage, Josh Andrés, Josh Andrés Rivera, Viola Davis

    Rating:
    PG-13

    Runtime:
    157 Minutes

    Genres:
    Action, Adventure, Drama

    Writers:
    Michael Lesslie, Michael Arndt, Suzanne Collins

    Studio(s):
    Color Force, Lionsgate

    Distributor(s):
    Lionsgate

    Sequel(s):
    The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

    Franchise(s):
    The Hunger Games