Rachel Zegler will star in a new Hunger Games prequel called The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes, it has been announced.

The West Side Story actress will play Lucy Gray Baird in the adaptation of Suzanne Collins' best-selling novel.

She will appear opposite Billy The Kid star Tom Blyth, who will play the young Coriolanus Snow.

The story is set many years before the events of the existing films, when Snow, who goes on to become the tyrannical president of Panem, is still a teenager.

With the 10th annual Hunger Games fast approaching he is assigned to mentor Baird, an impoverished girl from District 12 – the area where Katniss Everdeen grows up years later.

But after Baird commands all of Panem’s attention by defiantly singing during the reaping ceremony, Snow thinks he might be able to turn the odds in his favour.

West Side Story star Rachel Zegler to star in Hunger Games prequel as Lucy Gray Baird

The film, produced by Lionsgate, will debut in cinemas worldwide on 17 November 2023.

"When you read Suzanne’s book, Lucy Gray’s emotional intelligence, physical agility and fiercely powerful, determined singing voice shine through," said Lionsgate president Nathan Kahane.

"Rachel embodies all of those skills – she is the perfect choice for our Lucy Gray."

The film will be directed by Francis Lawrence, who helmed the franchise’s Catching Fire, Mockingjay Part One, and Mockingjay Part Two.

"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," Lawrence said.

"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."

Collins, Tim Palen and Jim Miller will serve as executive producers.

Source: Press Association