- Director Francis Lawrence discusses the challenge of characterizing a young President Snow and getting the audience to empathize with him in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.
- Producer Nina Jacobson talks about the challenges of creating a prequel in an existing universe and exploring themes of authoritarianism and trust in the film.
- Costume designer Trish Summerville reveals the challenges of creating a large volume of costumes and highlights the edgy and quirky designs for Dr. Gaul’s character.
The release of The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is finally here, and the cast and creative team recently gathered in New York City to celebrate on the red carpet. Based on the book of the same name by Suzanne Collins, the film is a prequel to the original Hunger Games series and follows future President Snow in his youth. The movie stars Billy the Kid‘s Tom Blyth, West Side Story‘s Rachel Zegler, The Woman King‘s Viola Davis, and Euphoria‘s Hunter Schafer alongside many other talented cast members.
Set 64 years before the original trilogy, The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes explores the origin story of the franchise’s main villain and his rise to power. Snow (Blyth) is appointed as a mentor for the 10th annual Hunger Games for Lucy Gray Baird (Zegler) – who sets herself apart through a performance during the reaping – and the two end up working together to win the competition. The film explores how the Hunger Games in its infancy and how Snow came to be the cold and brutal character fans are familiar with, while also raising questions about the world’s lore and perhaps making fans see the original Hunger Games differently.
Screen Rant interviewed the talented creative team behind the film, including director Francis Lawrence, producer Nina Jacobson, and more.
Francis Lawrence Talks The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes
Screen Rant: I’d love to hear what you think the biggest challenges were that came with making a prequel that’s in an already existing universe.
Francis Lawrence: Honestly, it’s just with the story itself I think, because we’re telling the origin of a villain, a story of the origin of a villain. It’s really to characterize him in a way when he’s younger, he’s not fully formed, specifically not philosophically formed, and make sure that we can get the audience behind him, rooting for him, empathizing with him, all of that. I think that was the big trick of this movie.
Were there scenes that stick out to you the most from filming because they were especially hard to get right translating it from the book?
Francis Lawrence: No, not really. I think it’s like every movie has its challenges. This movie had challenges on its own, but I think that most of it was really exciting. I mean, there’s some technically challenging things in the games and sometimes you might worry about music sequences, but Rachel’s such an amazing singer, that wasn’t an issue. And there’s some emotional scenes I was obviously worried about because the actors have to carry a lot, but Tom, our lead, just killed those moments. It worked really well.
Do you think Lucy Gray survives?
Francis Lawrence: I don’t give anything up. It’s a mystery.
Francis Lawrence: It’s a mystery.
Source: Screen Rant Plus
Nina Jacobson Talks The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes
Screen Rant: First, I would love to hear what you think the biggest challenges were that came with making a prequel that’s set in a preexisting universe.
Nina Jacobson: Well, I think for us it was like making a period movie and trying to imagine sort of the history of the Capitol, taking into account you’re 10 years from the war, people were rebuilding. And we used a lot of references from reconstructionist Germany. We had amazing practical locations that we were able to use that really set the stage, but we also wanted it to feel recognizable. You wanted people to know that this is a world they know, but they’re just seeing it before some of the detail has been filled in.
And also to imagine the games at a time that they have not yet been turned into the spectacle, that the rough edges have not been smoothed out in quite the same way. People are showing up in the outfits they were reaping, for instance, instead of having uniforms. And they’re more intense. And in the same way that you try to make sort of the unbearable a commodity, you see Snow and his classmates struggling to turn the games into a spectacle, into a commodity.
What themes did you want to be sure came through in the film the most?
Nina Jacobson: I think that Suzanne was very interesting in this book, exploring sort of the allure of authoritarianism, what draws people towards that kind of power. And also how we feel about each other, whether we trust or distrust each other when we are polarizing each other, how that fuels the pull towards extremism, towards authoritarianism.
So I think some of the really big ideas that she wanted to explore, but also to see a young character who’s not fully formed in Snow, and to see how it’s never a given that you will grow to be a villain or a hero. That you make those choices and those choices define you. And you’re catching him at a time in his life where everything he believes is thrown into question. The choices he makes are the ones that turn him into the man we will ultimately come to loathe and fear.
Do you think Lucy Gray lives?
Nina Jacobson: Yes, I sure do. She’s a survivor, first and foremost. She’s clever. She’s wiley. I absolutely believe she’s out there.
Source: Screen Rant Plus
Trish Summerville Talks The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes
Screen Rant: Costumes are such an integral part of the Hunger Games and how they work. What outfits were the biggest challenge in that regard?
Trish Summerville: Probably the biggest challenge is the large volume that we have to do. I mean, we have all the principals, and we do their costumes. As an example, Lucy Gray’s rainbow dress – there’s 10 multiples of that one dress because we have so many stunts and so many days we’re shooting. And then you look at something like the Academy uniforms for the kids, for the students. If we have 500 students we’re dressing, we have to make about 1500 costumes to fit 500. So probably the biggest challenge is the large scale of the film.
Are there any costumes where you feel like you got to go really all out and be especially creative and get weird with it?
Trish Summerville: I mean, definitely Dr. Gaul’s costumes. We got to lean into the edgy quirkiness that she is, lean into that future sci-fi feel that she has. So probably Dr. Gaul’s costumes.
And were there any outfits you had a vision for, but they just wound up not being feasible for whatever reason?
Trish Summerville: No, I mean, I’m pretty decisive as a costume designer, as a person, so pretty much everything we made, we saw. The only thing I would say is that I always wanted to see Hunter, Tigris’s character head to toe, and I didn’t get that one.
Source: Screen Rant Plus
Dave Cobb Talks The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes
Screen Rant: First, I would love to know just a little bit about what it felt like going into a film with such epic scenes? How do you approach that musically?
Dave Cobb: It’s all terrifying. What’s interesting about this film is the first time there’s a singing character, so you have at least some handcuffs off for that, because no one’s told you what to do or how to do it, so we just hoped it was going to be good. And Rachel Zegler certainly made it better than we could ever imagine.
What was it like directing her in those songs? What role did you play in that?
Dave Cobb: There wasn’t a whole lot of handholding to do. She’s such a pro. Whatever we had with the pre-record, she beat it. She was so good, so real and so honest, and she made my life easy.
Were there any scenes that proved to be especially difficult for whatever reason to get the sound just right?
Dave Cobb: Not for her. It just felt all honest and real and she sang every line live too, in the film, which is incredible. She can do that.
How did that change things, having her record it live instead?
Dave Cobb: Well, I think she’s reacting to the scene. Francis would say, “This is happening here, this is happening there.” And she would react to it and change the timing and change the feel and the energy and emotion. She’s a genius.
Are there any behind-the-scenes moments like that especially stick out to you?
Dave Cobb: Not really. It was just so seamless, because you had somebody who could take where you started and take it to a whole other place.
Source: Screen Rant Plus
About The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes
Tells the story of the origins of the future President Coriolanus Snow, as he mentors District 12 tribute Lucy Gray Baird in the 10th annual Hunger Games.
Check out our other interviews for The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes here:
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is in theaters now.
- Release Date:
- Francis Lawrence
- Tom Blyth, Rachel Zegler, Hunter Schafer, Jason Schwartzman, Peter Dinklage, Josh Andrés, Josh Andrés Rivera, Viola Davis
- 157 Minutes
- Action, Adventure, Drama
- Michael Lesslie, Michael Arndt, Suzanne Collins
- Color Force, Lionsgate
- The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
- The Hunger Games