Viola Davis is taking her talents to Panem.
The Oscar winner will play the villain in the upcoming Hunger Games prequel movie The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, the film's official Instagram confirmed on Monday. Davis was cast as head gamemaker of the 10th annual Hunger Games, Dr. Volumnia Gaul.
Songbirds and Snakes' cast also includes West Side Story star Rachel Zegler as District 12 tribute Lucy Gray Baird, Tom Blyth as a young Coriolanus Snow (played by Donald Sutherland in the Hunger Games movies), Peter Dinklage, Jason Schwartzman, Hunter Schafer and Josh Andrés Rivera.
The Hollywood Reporter was first to report the news of Davis' casting.
Director Francis Lawrence, who made the latter three of the four Hunger Games movies, told THR, of Davis' character, "Dr. Gaul is as cruel as she is creative and as fearsome as she is formidable. Snow's savvy as a political operator develops in no small part due to his experiences with her as the games' most commanding figure."
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Producer Nina Jacobson said Davis, 57, was their "dream" casting for the role "from the beginning" because of the "finely layered intelligence and emotion she brings to every role." She added, "We are incredibly fortunate to have an actor with Viola's extraordinary range and presence to play this pivotal role."
Based on author Suzanne Collins' 2020 novel, Songbirds and Snakes follows Lucy Gray Baird, a tribute from District 12 in the 10th annual Hunger Games, where kids fight to the death in front of an audience. (Jennifer Lawrence's character Katniss Everdeen was District 12's tribute in the 74th and 75th Games.)
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An official synopsis for the film reads, "Years before he would become the tyrannical President of Panem, 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow is the last hope for his fading lineage, a once-proud family that has fallen from grace in a post-war Capitol."
"With the 10th annual Hunger Games fast approaching, the young Snow is alarmed when he is assigned to mentor Lucy Gray Baird, the girl tribute from impoverished District 12. But, after 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. 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."
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is in theaters Nov. 17, 2023.