'The Hunger Games' Prequel Casts 'Billy the Kid' 's Tom Blyth as a Young President Snow

PEOPLE can exclusively reveal that Tom Blyth will play a young President Snow in the upcoming Hunger Games prequel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Tom Blyth
Tom Blyth. Photo: Julian Ungano

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes has found its star.

PEOPLE can exclusively reveal that Tom Blyth, currently starring in Epix's new Western adventure series Billy the Kid, will play the young President Coriolanus Snow in the upcoming Hunger Games prequel film, based on the 2020 book of the same name.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes takes place within the Hunger Games universe, set roughly 64 years before the first book in the original trilogy.

The Ballad follows an 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow, who would eventually rise to become the tyrannical president of the dystopian nation of Panem, and the main villain of the Hunger Games series.

Donald Sutherland portrayed the authoritarian President Snow across the first four movies, which followed the story of a brutal, annual affair where two adolescent tributes from each of the 12 districts of Panem are chosen at random to fight to the death in a televised survival challenge.

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Tom Blyth and Donald Sutherland
Tom Blyth (L); Donald Sutherland. Jon Kopaloff/Getty, Murray Close/©Lionsgate/courtesy Everett Collection

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Francis Lawrence, who previously directed the last three films in the series — The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Parts 1 and 2 of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay will return to direct the new movie, while Hunger Games series author Suzanne Collins will serve as an executive producer alongside Tim Palen. Michael Lesslie will write the script, based on Collins' book.

"Coriolanus Snow is many things — a survivor, a loyal friend, a cutthroat, a kid quick to fall in love, and a young man ambitious to his core," says Lawrence, 51. "Tom's take on the character showed us all the complex ambiguities of this young man as he transforms into the tyrant he would become."

"Tom's performance will both fulfill and disrupt everything you think you know about Coriolanus Snow," adds producer Nina Jacobson. "He's a tremendous talent who will show why Snow always lands on top."

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (a Hunger Games Novel) Suzanne Collins
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins. Scholastic Press

Erin Westerman, president of production for Lionsgate, tells PEOPLE, "Tom Blyth is an explosive rising talent whose mesmerizing and charismatic presence makes him an exciting actor and perfect for this leading role."

Aside from his role on Billy the Kid, Juilliard School alum Blyth, 27, has credits in HBO's The Gilded Age and Benediction, a film from Terence Davies. He also starred in the 2018 British coming-of-age film Scott and Sid.

Blyth is represented by Gersh; United Agents in the U.K.; MJ Management and Sloane, Offer, Weber & Dern.

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An official synopsis for the new 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," it continues.

The synopsis adds, "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 first four Hunger Games films, broke box-office records from 2012 through 2015, earning more than $3 billion worldwide.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes hits theaters on Nov. 17, 2023.

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