‘Hunger Games’ Prequel Director Improvised Lucy Gray Baird-Katniss Everdeen Curtsy Callback to Original Film

Social media went into a frenzy when the first trailer for The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes showed Rachel Zegler’s Lucy Gray Baird mockingly curtsy the same way Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen did in The Hunger Games.

The curtsy is an iconic moment in the first film of the franchise and marks one of Katniss’ earliest signs of rebellion. It takes place after she shoots an arrow directly into a viewing room with Capitol residents who have come to watch the new tributes hone their talents in training before entering the 74th annual Hunger Games.

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For Lucy, it comes after she is reaped for the 10th annual Hunger Games as one of the tributes from District, who goes on to become its first victor — and only victor until Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson in the first franchise) and eventually Katniss and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson).

Prequel director Francis Lawrence, who also helmed Catching Fire and both Mockingjay films, told Entertainment Tonight he improvised Lucy’s sassy curtsy while they were filming.

“It was something that I made up on the day and had Rachel do because we’re constantly looking for, in the making of this, little sort of Easter eggs that would excite the fans,” Lawrence told the publication. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is really cool. If she does this then, you know, Katniss could have heard generations later about this kind of rebellious, irreverent act of this woman that was a singer and did this sort of bow curtsy at the reaping.'”

He added, “It just gives a different sort of meaning to Katniss’ action, and I think that it’s a really fun element of this movie, to get lots of those moments.”

The director also shared his thoughts on the theory fans have that Lucy and Katniss are related somehow, noting that he and producer Nina Jacobson don’t necessarily believe it. However, he explained that he appreciates that author Suzanne Collins allows fans to come up with their own theories and debate them.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will follow the relationship between Lucy and Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth), her mentor in the Games who fans know eventually goes on to become the villain of the Hunger Games franchise.

Lawrence and Jacobson were especially interested in exploring Snow’s villain origin story and finding a way to balance sympathizing with someone who seems good despite knowing who he ends up being.

“It was making sure that we got an audience behind it and to empathize and root for a character that they know is so awful in the original stories,” the director explained. “The other tricky bit is that because he’s going to break bad, you want to make sure that even though we have people rooting for him, that we still are seeding in all the elements of ambition, that hunger for power and greed and the darkness, so that when he does go dark, it’s believable and truthful and honest, and you understand it.”

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

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