The official announcement that Rachel Zegler would star as Lucy Gray Baird in the prequel The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was made in late May 2022, but the news probably could’ve come sooner.
During an interview with the Happy Sad Confused podcast, Zegler revealed that she initially turned down the role after she and director Francis Lawrence met in London in January 2022 to discuss the project. Apparently, Lawrence wasn’t interested in Zegler auditioning for the role. He was offering it to her – then and there.
“I was offered [the role] in January of last year after wanting it so badly,” Zegler said. “I got a call from my agent that was like ‘Francis Lawrence wants you to do this.’”
Lawrence told Zegler they would be filming in Germany and Poland. It seems, however, that Zegler started getting second thoughts about shooting the film in another country. She was about to start shooting the live-action version of Snow White in London.
“I had just gotten to London, and I wanted to disappear because I was so far away from home for the first time ever,” Zegler said. “And I was away from everybody that I knew and loved, and I said no [to Hunger Games].”
Zegler admitted that she “regretted it the second I said it.” She had another project lined up, but when it was pushed to 2023, she reconsidered the answer she gave to Lawrence. “I just kind of put my name back into the mix and got [the role],” she said. “I feel really bad for any of the girls … because I put my name back in, and they were just like, ‘Yup, OK, cool, we’ll do it.’”
When Rachel Zegler was finally cast, Nathan Kahane, president of Lionsgate, said she was “the perfect choice for our Lucy Gray.”
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is scheduled to premiere at theaters on November 17, 2023.