Movies

Fly, ‘Songbird’, Fly: ‘Hunger Games’ Star Rachel Zegler & More On “Emotion” Of Singing Pic’s “Timeless And Classic” Country Songs Live On Set

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes might be dressed up like a prequel in its early roots story of villain-to-be Coriolanus Snow, and some might think that Rachel Zegler’s Lucy Gray Baird is just an early days Katniss from District 12.

However, those hasty generalizations would rob the film of its sublime uniqueness, for at its core this sci-fi political action thriller has the underpinnings of a sublime romantic country western musical, and when you finally see it, you’ll get what we mean.

Setting this Hunger Games by filmmaker Francis Lawrence apart from his last three with Jennifer Lawrence are the raw and rugged, rural Scottish and Irish influenced ballads sung by Rachel Zegler’s Lucy, who is a member of the Covey, a traveling musician group.

Beamed actor Tom Blyth about Lucy’s songs at the Los Angeles Premiere last night for the Lionsgate movie which opens on Nov. 17, “The writing that (author) Suzanne (Collins) put on the page in terms of song and lyricism is so beautiful, it’s like timeless and classic and kind of genius and almost like Shakespearean in a way.”

Lawrence and producers Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson hired Nashville mainstay music supervisor and songwriter Dave Cobb to oversee Lucy’s canon (watch the featurette below). Hunger Games franchise author Suzanne Collins penned the songs’ lyrics.

In further giving the music a transcendent aura in Songbirds & Snakes, Lawrence had Zegler perform her songs live on set.

Zegler told Deadline’s Katie Campione about that on-set experience last night: “There is nothing like hearing one’s voice in a space live and as somebody who has been training vocally for ten years it was really important to me as a viewer of movies and musical alike; when you’re witnessing it, you can tell it adds emotion when someone is singing live in the room; emotion for other people who get to watch and listen, but also for someone who is singing.”

“I’m grateful that the filmmakers trusted me to do that,” added the West Side Story actress.

The production tapped multi-platinum selling and 3x Grammy winner Olivia Rodrigo to pen and perform the closing credits song “Can’t Catch Me Now”. Rodrigo told Deadline, that she “watched the movie a few months ago and really fell in love with the character of Lucy Gray and everything she represents. I wrote that song from her perspective and it was a fun challenge.”

Lawrence told Deadline that he never instructed Blyth to emulate Donald Sutherland’s persona or mannerism from the previous films.

“Didn’t want him to study Donald,” says Lawrence, “Didn’t want him to pretend to be Donald in any way.”

“I wanted him to own the character, we’re meeting the guy at a very young age, not fully formed. Wanted him to play the way he would play it,” the director behind Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Mockingjay Part One and Two added.

“There are physical sides of him that you can believe that he can grow up into the Snow we know,” Lawrence continued, “There is an intelligence and sophistication to him that you sort of believe can turn into the Snow.”

When it comes to a sequel, Jacobson says it boils down to Collins.

“Suzanne is our north star.” If she gives us material she has, ideas she wants to explore in this world, I’m always going to be the first one to want to be there.”

Added Jacobson, “People get weary of the idea that sequels are inevitable.  This was not inevitable and whatever may or may not come, is not inevitable either.”

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