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Rachel Zegler has been cast as Lucy Gray Baird in The Hunger Games prequel

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West Side Story star Rachel Zegler has been cast as the leading lady of an upcoming The Hunger Games prequel.

The 21-year-old sent fans into a whirl of conjecture on Monday with a tweet that was interpreted as a nod to the character Lucy Gray Baird from the fictional universe.

She set the rumors flying when she tweeted: ‘Listen up… .. can y’all grow restfully? are you becoming an individual resting decisively? ‘

On Tuesday morning Lionsgate confirmed via Variety that Rachel has indeed won the role of Lucy in the prequel film The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes.

New role: West Side Story star Rachel Zegler (pictured in March) has been confirmed by Lionsgate as the leading lady of an upcoming The Hunger Games prequel

‘When you read Suzanne’s book, Lucy Gray’s emotional intelligence, physical agility, and fiercely powerful, determined singing voice shine through. Rachel embodies all of those skills – she is the perfect choice for our Lucy Gray, ‘said Lionsgate Motion Picture Group President Nathan Kahane on Tuesday.

Francis Lawrence, who helmed three of the four original Hunger Games movies, will direct The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes.

‘Like everybody, I first saw Rachel Zegler in West Side Story, and like everybody, I knew I was watching a star who would command the screen for a generation,’ gushed Francis. ‘Lucy Gray is a perfect match for her as an actress: the character is bold, independent and defiant, but also vulnerable, emotional and loving. Rachel will make this character unforgettable. ‘

‘Lucy Gray is an incredibly complex character, a performer who has to use every skill in her arsenal to survive,’ producer Nina Jacobson said.

Confirmed: The 21-year-old actress sent fans into a whirl of conjecture on Monday with a tweet that was interpreted as a nod to the character Lucy Gray Baird from the fictional universe

Confirmed: The 21-year-old actress sent fans into a whirl of conjecture on Monday with a tweet that was interpreted as a nod to the character Lucy Gray Baird from the fictional universe

‘Our casting team, Deb Zane and Dylan Jury, spearheaded an exhaustive search, reading hundreds of actors in search of our perfect Lucy Gray. That search ended when Rachel Zegler blew the roof off with her depth and breadth of talent as an actor, singer and performer, ‘the producer continued.

‘Rachel is utterly compelling; just like Lucy Gray, her voice and charisma command the stage while her inner strength and humanity transform those around her. ‘

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is scheduled to be released in theaters on November 17, 2023, with production starting later this year.

Suzanne Collins, the author behind the original Hunger Games novels, published the book The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes in 2020.

The book: Suzanne Collins, the author behind the original Hunger Games novels, published the book The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes in 2020

The book: Suzanne Collins, the author behind the original Hunger Games novels, published the book The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes in 2020

The storyline focuses on the rise of Coriolanus Snow, who by the time of The Hunger Games is the iron-fisted leader of the dystopian land of Panem.

However at the time of the prequel, Coriolanus Snow is just a mentor in the Hunger Games, where each of the 12 districts nominates two children to compete.

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All these children are then unleashed into a treacherous arena where they slaughter each other until one district wins.

Rachel will be playing Lucy Gray Baird of District 12 – the same region that decades later will produce Katniss Everdeen, the lead of The Hunger Games series.

Throwback: Jennifer Lawrence was propelled to global stardom by her role as Katniss in the Hunger Games films, but because of the timeline she will not be in the prequel

Throwback: Jennifer Lawrence was propelled to global stardom by her role as Katniss in the Hunger Games films, but because of the timeline she will not be in the prequel

'I feel pretty': Rachel herself first made her bones as a singer on YouTube and was then cast as Maria in Steven Spielberg's adaptation of West Side Story, in which she is pictured

‘I feel pretty’: Rachel herself first made her bones as a singer on YouTube and was then cast as Maria in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of West Side Story, in which she is pictured

Jennifer Lawrence was propelled to global stardom by her role as Katniss in the Hunger Games films, but because of the timeline she will not be in the prequel.

When Lucy is ‘reaped,’ meaning selected as a competitor, she wows the crowd by delivering a stirring singing performance – and gets Coriolanus for a mentor.

The Gilded Age actor Tom Blyth has been tapped to play Coriolanus, who is portrayed as an old man by Donald Sutherland in the Hunger Games films.

Rachel herself first made her bones as a singer on YouTube and was then cast as Maria in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the classic stage musical West Side Story.

Rising star: The British actor Tom Blyth, who is pictured on The Gilded Age, has been tapped to play the young Coriolanus Snow alongside Rachel

Rising star: The British actor Tom Blyth, who is pictured on The Gilded Age, has been tapped to play the young Coriolanus Snow alongside Rachel

Leader: The Hunger Games films featured Donald Sutherland as a much older version of Coriolanus Snow, who has become the iron-fisted ruler of Panem

Leader: The Hunger Games films featured Donald Sutherland as a much older version of Coriolanus Snow, who has become the iron-fisted ruler of Panem

She achieved critical praise for the film and became the youngest winner of the Golden Globe for best actress in a motion picture musical or comedy.

However she was controversially not invited to the Oscars, where her film was up for best picture and her co-star Ariana DeBose won best supporting actress.

Rachel celebrated her latest professional coup on Twitter, posting a pair of snapshots of herself first answering the phone, then reacting excitedly.

She wrote in the tweet that the attached images were: ‘photos from when i found out it was happening and it was real.’

Face to face: Jennifer is pictured in the first Hunger Games movie from 2012 alongside Liam Hemsworth, who plays her character's childhood pal Gale

Face to face: Jennifer is pictured in the first Hunger Games movie from 2012 alongside Liam Hemsworth, who plays her character’s childhood pal Gale

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