Tom Blyth is headed to Panem. The actor, best known for “Billy the Kid” and “The Gilded Age,” has been cast as young President Coriolanus Snow in Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games” prequel “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.”
The movie is based on the 2020 book of the same name, which is set decades before the exploits of Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games.” That means the original franchise’s beloved heroine, a role that propelled Jennifer Lawrence to superstardom, does not appear in “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” which instead centers on the man (portrayed by Donald Sutherland in the first films) who eventually becomes the tyrannical leader of the dystopia known as Panem. The prequel story takes place as an 18-year-old Snow is chosen to be mentor during the 10th Hunger Games, a televised event in which teenagers are chosen via lottery to fight to the death.
Except for Blyth, the prequel cast has not been announced. Along with Snow, the other main character in the novel is his mentee Lucy Gray Baird, the female tribute from the impoverished District 12.
“Tom Blyth is an explosive rising talent whose mesmerizing and charismatic presence makes him an exciting actor and perfect for this leading role,” said Erin Westerman, president of production, Lionsgate Motion Picture Group.
Adds producer Nina Jacobson, “Tom’s performance will both fulfill and disrupt everything you think you know about Coriolanus Snow. He’s a tremendous talent who will show why Snow always lands on top.”
The first “Hunger Games” films began as Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute to take her younger sister’s place in the 74th annual Hunger Games. Along with Lawrence, the series featured Josh Hutcherson as Katniss’s rival and then lover, Liam Hemsworth as Katniss’s reliable bestie Gale Hawthorne, Woody Harrelson as former Hunger Games victor-turned-mentor Haymitch Abernathy, Elizabeth Banks as “May the odds be ever in your favor” orator Effie Trinket and Sutherland as President Coriolanus Snow.
Suzanne Collins’ bestselling “The Hunger Games” novel was first published in 2008 and spawned two sequels, which were later developed into four films. Those movies collectively generated $3 billion at the global box office.
“Hunger Games” veteran Francis Lawrence returned to direct the upcoming film, which will begin production later this year. Michael Arndt, who wrote the franchise’s second installment “Catching Fire,” was intended to write the screenplay, but he’s passed on duties to Michael Lesslie (“Macbeth,” starring Michael Fassbender).
“Coriolanus Snow is many things – a survivor, a loyal friend, a cutthroat, a kid quick to fall in love and a young man ambitious to his core,” said Lawrence. “Tom’s take on the character showed us all the complex ambiguities of this young man as he transforms into the tyrant he would become.”
“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” will be released in theaters on Nov. 17, 2023.