Lionsgate has officially cast self-admitted racist and Shazam! Fury of the Gods actress Rachel Zegler as the female lead of their upcoming adaptation of the Hunger Games prequel novel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.
Penned by series creator Suzanne Collins and set over 60 years prior to the story of Katniss, the 2020 novel centers on a young Coriolanus Snow, long before his turn into the series’ main antagonist, as he finds himself assigned to coach District 12 tribute Lucy Gray Baird for her appearance in the upcoming tenth Hunger Games.
After Lucy wins the games, it is eventually discovered that, unbeknownst to herself, she only did so with outside help from Snow.
Faced with punishment, Snow accepts a position as a Peacekeeper, a decision which eventually leads him into direct conflict with Lucy, who seeks to escape from Panem and its cruel customs.
Set to be directed by Hunger Games franchise director Francis Lawrence and feature a script from Assassin’s Creed screenplay writer Michael Leslie, the upcoming production announced on May 31st that Zegler had officially been tapped to star opposite the previously announced Tom Blyth’s Snow as Lucy.
“Like everybody, I first saw Rachel Zegler in ‘West Side Story,’ and like everybody, I knew I was watching a star who would command the screen for a generation,” said Lawrence of the casting choice. “Lucy Gray is a perfect match for her as an actress: the character is bold, independent and defiant, but also vulnerable, emotional and loving. Rachel will make this character unforgettable.”
Franchise producer Nina Jacobson, who along with her partner Brad Simpson will return to produce its next entry, similarly asserted, “Lucy Gray is an incredibly complex character, a performer who has to use every skill in her arsenal to survive. Our casting team, Deb Zane and Dylan Jury, spearheaded an exhaustive search, reading hundreds of actors in search of our perfect Lucy Gray. That search ended when Rachel Zegler blew the roof off with her depth and breadth of talent as an actor, singer and performer.”
“Rachel is utterly compelling,” she continued. “Just like Lucy Gray, her voice and charisma command the stage while her inner strength and humanity transform those around her.”
Lionsgate Motion Picture Group president Nathan Kahane added, “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.”
Zegler first hinted to her casting on May 30th, tweeting, “listen up….. can y’all grow restfully? are you becoming an individual resting decisively?”, a cryptic message whose first letters spelled out her character’s full name, Lucy Gray Baird.
Interestingly, particularly given Hollywood’s continual heralding of themselves as champions of equality and social justice, this decision came in light of the fact that Zegler is a self-admitted racist.
In a May 2020 tweet, responding to a tweet criticizing her authoring of a thread discussing ways to help hijabi-clad women during protests, the actress declared, “If you think using my platform as any decent human being should is ‘barking orders’, hahaha. Ok. I have donated, shared, and will continue to educate myself on the never ending racism that I— and many other white/white passing people— am to blame for. Do the same. Be well.”
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is set to hit theaters on November 17th, 2023.
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