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SYFY WIRE Peter Dinklage

Peter Dinklage broadening his genre horizons as ‘The Hunger Games’ prequel’s 'vindictive' Dean Highbottom

From Westeros to Panem, the repeat Emmy winner has more fantasy moves up his sleeve.

By Benjamin Bullard
Peter Dinklage at the 71st Emmys

It’s been two years since author Suzanne Collins expanded The Hunger Games book series raised to star-powered dystopian heights by the Jennifer Lawrence-led film trilogy (okay, it’s technically four adapted films if you count the two-part Mockingjay finale as standalones). With production now reportedly underway on the upcoming Hunger Games movie prequel, it looks like that star power is getting an Emmy-winning assist, thanks to an epic casting move that will definitely resonate with any Game of Thrones fan.

Deadline reports that GoT alum Peter Dinklage is set to board the cast of The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, the in-development Hunger Games prequel from Lionsgate that’s set to unfold long before the events of the earlier movies in the box office-shattering franchise. Dinklage reportedly will take up the mantle of Casca Highbottom, the dean of the Academy where Panem’s elite send their kids to the Capitol city to perpetuate their stranglehold on generational wealth-and-power status.

Casca’s timeline comes early in franchise lore, with Collin’s eponymous 2020 novel on which the new film is based exploring the games in their relative infancy, some seven decades before Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) arrived to subvert Panem’s rigid conventions. Unfolding in the days long before Coriolanus Snow (played by Donald Sutherland in the previous films) ever seized presidential power, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes finds an 18-year-old Snow (Tom Blyth) mentoring female tribute Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler), who hails from the downcast District 12. There’s plenty of nuance to Snow’s backstory beyond a simple heir-apparent grip on power though, as Lionsgate’s synopsis, via the report, reveals:

“…[A]fter Lucy Gray commands all of Panem’s attention by defiantly singing during the reaping ceremony, Snow thinks he might be able to turn the odds in their favor,” the studio teases. “Uniting their instincts for showmanship and newfound political savvy, Snow and Lucy’s race against time to survive will ultimately reveal who is a songbird, and who is a snake.”

Returning to helm his fourth Hunger Games film, director Francis Lawrence offered some early insight into how Dinklage’s role will carry over to the screen from Collins’ printed page. "Dean Highbottom is one of the most powerful people in Snow’s life," Lawrence said in a statement to Deadline. "As the austere and vindictive face of the games, he sets the rules that will determine every aspect of Coriolanus’s fate. I’m thrilled that Peter will be bringing him to life."

Not that anyone needs a refresher, but Dinklage endured to the bitter end as Game of Thrones’ wise but debauched Tyrion Lannister, anchoring HBO’s sprawling cast across all eight seasons while scoring a historic four Emmy awards (and picking up nominations in every one of his eligible seasons) for Best Supporting Actor. Watch for Dinklage to emerge in a different kind of fantasy universe when The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes arrives in theaters on Nov. 17, 2023.

In the meantime, if you're suddenly in the mood for some dystopian sci-fi, check out Brave New World on Peacock.