Viola Davis to Star in ‘Hunger Games’ Prequel ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ as Head Gamemaker

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Viola Davis is headed to Panem as the head gamemaker in “The Hunger Games” prequel, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.”

The Lionsgate movie is based on the 2020 book of the same name, which takes place decades before the adventures of Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games.” The prequel story is focused on 18-year-old Snow, who eventually becomes the tyrannical leader of the dystopia known as Panem. In “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” he’s chosen to be mentor during the 10th Hunger Games, a televised event in which teenagers are chosen via lottery to fight to the death.

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Davis, who is playing Volumnia Gaul, the mastermind of the diabolical teen death-match, will star opposite Tom Blyth as young Coriolanus Snow, Rachel Zegler as tribute Lucy Gray Baird, Hunter Schafer as Snow’s cousin and confidante Tigris Snow and Peter Dinklage as Academy dean Casca Highbottom.

“The Hunger Games films have always been elevated by their exceptional casting, and we are thrilled to be continuing that tradition with Viola Davis as Volumnia Gaul. Her formidable and powerful presence will add layers of complexity and menace to this story,” said Nathan Kahane, president of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group.

“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” will be helmed by Francis Lawrence, who previously directed the franchise’s “Catching Fire,” “Mockingjay — Part 1” and “Mockingjay — Part 2.” The latest draft of the screenplay is by Michael Lesslie (“Macbeth” starring Michael Fassbender, “Assassin’s Creed). Lesslie builds on the work of Collins and Michael Arndt (“Little Miss Sunshine,” “Catching Fire”).

“Dr. Gaul is as cruel as she is creative and as fearsome as she is formidable. Snow’s savvy as a political operator develops in no small part due to his experiences with her as the games’ most commanding figure,” Lawrence said.

Franchise veteran Nina Jacobson and her producing partner Brad Simpson will oversee the newest “Hunger Games” installment, along with Lawrence. Author Suzanne Collins, Tim Palen and Jim Miller will serve as executive producers. Meredith Wieck and Scott O’Brien are overseeing on behalf of Lionsgate.

“From the beginning, Viola has been our dream for Dr. Gaul because of the finely layered intelligence and emotion she brings to every role. A brilliant and eccentric strategist, Gaul is instrumental in shaping a young Coriolanus Snow into the man he will become. We are incredibly fortunate to have an actor with Viola’s extraordinary range and presence to play this pivotal role,” Jacobson said.

Davis is a Tony winner for “Fences” and “King Hedley II,” an Oscar winner for “Fences” and an Emmy winner for “How to Get Away With Murder. Her next leading role is in Sony’s historical epic “The Woman King,” which opens in theaters in September. Davis is represented by CAA, Lasher Group, and Lichter, Grossman, Nichols, Adler, Feldman & Clark.

“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” debuts in theaters worldwide on Nov. 17, 2023.

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