Actress Rachel Zegler drew inspiration from classic film in crafting the character of Lucy Gray Baird for “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” particularly actress Audrey Hepburn.
The “Hunger Games” prequel tells the story of the first games, focusing specifically on the relationship between District 12 contestant Lucy Gray Baird and a young Coriolanus Snow.
The character of Lucy Gray Baird is not just a musical performer, but also has an inner uniqueness that Zegler was drawn to and found reminiscent of Hepburn’s performance in the 1963 feature “Charade.” “Audrey Hepburn plays … She’s a little kooky, she’s a little ditzy but also very grounded and sure of herself, and has the self-preservation motivation for most of the film which is just her staying alive,” said Zegler.
And much like “Charade,” which vacillates between being a comedy and a mystery, was something Zegler also took to heart, particularly with her character’s relationship to future Panem President, Coriolanus Snow (played by Tom Blyth). “The way that she’s able to flip-flop and play the game and Coriolanus doesn’t even realize that he’s being played, and the audience doesn’t either,” she said. “So she plays a game of dramatic irony with both.”
Zegler said she always tries to draw on Old Hollywood films in her work, citing that she was raised on the classic film network, Turner Classic Movies, a channel that was “always playing” in her home. “I really do love revisiting those when I’m prepping, but also just when I’m learning,” she said.
For Zegler, the fact that things like CGI weren’t a factor makes classic film performances stand out more. “There’s such an emphasis on performance in those movies. There was no spectacle back then,” she said. “When it was stripped down to a two-camera job and you really only have Gregory Peck giving his all on camera. It really just shows you how much of your soul an actor had to wear on their sleeve back then.”
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“The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is in theaters now.