New Delhi, Nov 16 (PTI) Everybody loves to hate "a good bad guy", says "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes" star Tom Blyth, who is happy to have portrayed the younger version of villainous Coriolanus Snow, a role made popular by Hollywood veteran Donald Sutherland in the original movie franchise.
Blyth, 28, said he was a teenager when he saw the Jennifer Lawrence-led "Hunger Games" films and Sutherland's performance as the tyrannical leader of the dystopian country of Panem stayed with him.
"I was a big fan of the original films when I was a teenager, and I'm probably a bit embarrassed to admit that Donald Sutherland's character was my favourite in the franchise. He was so naughty that you're not supposed to admit that. But I think it was because his performance was so deliciously evil," Blyth told PTI in a virtual interview.
The story of "The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes" is set decades before the events of the first "Hunger Games" movie, based on author Suzanne Collins book series of the same title that explored the world of a dystopian country and the simmering conflict between the Capitol and its 12 Districts.
The actor, known for starring in British shows and movies such as "Benediction" and "Billy the Kid", has played Snow as a charmer. The new film's story is adapted from Collins' 2020 novel.
"I think everyone loves to hate a good bad guy, right? If a bad guy is played well enough, then you really love to hate them. And he (Snow) is one of those and makes these choices that nobody else could have made.
"So, getting to come back and play him 64 years before, lift the lid on why he has become so bad... As an actor, that's just the most exciting thing because you get to see him as a full-fledged human being who has all this depth and all these layers," Blyth said.
The Francis Lawrence-directed film follows Snow as the last hope of a failing lineage that has fallen from grace in a post-war Capitol.
Snow reluctantly accepts the assignment to mentor Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler), a Tribute from the impoverished District 12, in the 10th Hunger Games. But after Lucy's charm captivates the audience of Panem, Snow sees an opportunity to shift both their fates.
The "Hunger Games" film series explored themes of survival, oppression, rebellion, and the consequences of power, something that feels topical for a world witnessing two wars currently -- the conflicts between Ukraine and Russia, and Israel and Hamas.
The beauty of Collins' writing is that she talks about "big themes" in a kind of a world of entertainment that everyone wants to go and see, said Blyth.
"She draws you in and makes you ask big questions. So, we all look forward to audiences being challenged and walking out thinking besides being entertained," he added.
As an actor, Blyth said he hopes to be part of "meaningful" stories.
"All you can hope is that you make work that resonates with people. People need to take a breath, you know? They need to go to the cinema, sit down, eat some popcorn, and take a breath when things are going on in the world, and their lives are tough," he said.
This is why music is an integral part of the franchise and even in "The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes", the Birmingham-born artist said.
"Why music in a war-torn world? It's because people need to celebrate together no matter what is going on. It's what makes us human. I think Suzanne writes a world where it feels necessary... And, that's really exciting to delve into because there's nothing more human than that," he added.
For those unaware about the world of "The Hunger Games", Blyth said it is not necessary to watch the original film series which includes -- "The Hunger Games" (2012), "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" (2013), "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1" (2014) and "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2" (2015).
"I went into this (film) thinking there would have to be a certain knowledge required from the original books or movies, but having now seen it, I don't think that's the case at all.
"Actually, a few friends who have seen it with us have told me that they hadn't seen the original movies or had only seen one of them. And they were kind of engaged and impressed by the world in a kind of fresh way that like I've seen for the first time," Blyth said.
The actor said the new film is a "bit grittier" than its predecessors.
"It goes into more depth into the world and the social structures of Panem. I think adults and teenagers will be won over by it," he added.
"The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes" also stars Josh Andres Rivera, Peter Dinklage, Hunter Schafer, Jason Schwartzman and Viola Davis.
The film will be released in India on November 17 by Lionsgate. PTI RB BK BK