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SYFY WIRE Francis Lawrence

Francis Lawrence returning to Panem to direct 'Hunger Games' prequel 'Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes'

By Josh Weiss
Francis Lawrence

Francis Lawrence has volunteered himself as tribute and officially locked down a deal to helm Lionsgate's big-screen adaptation of Suzanne Collins' upcoming Hunger Games prequel novel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Per an official announcement, Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) is writing the screenplay, while Nina Jacobson (a veteran of the series) produces.

"Suzanne’s new book has been worth the wait. It offers everything fans could hope for and expect from The Hunger Games while also breaking new ground and introducing an entirely new canvas of characters,"  Joe Drake, chairman of the Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, said in a statement. "The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is creatively thrilling and takes this world to complex new dimensions that open up amazing cinematic possibilities. We’re thrilled to reunite this filmmaking team with this very unique franchise, and we can’t wait to begin production."

Lawrence (Red Sparrow, See) took over the reins of the dystopian franchise from director Gary Ross after the first massively successful entry was released in 2008. He oversaw production on Catching Fire (2013) and the two-part Mockingjay (2014 and 2015). All four movies brought in almost $3 billion at the global box office.

Hunger Games prequel cover

Going on sale May 19, the prequel centers on a young Coriolanus Snow (the main antagonist of the first three books) in the early days of Panem's annual Hunger Games, which are meant to punish the 12 Districts for their ill-fated rebellion against the Capitol. Snow is tasked with mentoring a tribute from District 12, a coal-mining segment of the country that eventually births Katniss Everdeen. Donald Sutherland portrayed President Snow as an adult in the previous adaptations.

The novel already had a film deal in the works when it was first announced last summer. Lawrence teased that he was in talks for the project last November. 

Collins will produce the movie adaptation as well. 

"Lionsgate has always been the cinematic home of The Hunger Games, and I’m delighted to be returning to them with this new book,” she said in a statement of her own. “From the beginning, they have treated the source material with great respect, honoring the thematic and narrative elements of the story, and assembling an incredible team both in front of and behind the camera."

Suzanne Collins

No casting news is available yet, but we can't imagine Lionsgate will have much trouble finding big A-listers with the books and movies being as popular as they are.

Moreover, the cinematic franchise has a well-known track record for hiring massive stars like Jennifer Lawrence, Lenny Kravitz, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Toby Jones, Woody Harrelson, Mahershala Ali, Stanley Tucci, Jeffrey Wright, Sam Claflin, Julianne Moore, and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.