The Big Picture

  • Director Francis Lawrence found inspiration for a character in The Hunger Games prequel from Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka, seeing similarities in their sinister creativity.
  • Both Willy Wonka and Volumnia Gaul have a creepy side to their roles, designing playgrounds of danger and death.
  • Fans of Gene Wilder’s portrayal of Willy Wonka will be intrigued to see how Viola Davis brings a sinister joy to her role in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.

Even though the elite who live at the Capitol would love to get their hands on a Wonka chocolate bar, a crossover between The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is unlikely. However, director Francis Lawrence (Constantine) told Collider that the 1971 children’s movie kept coming back to him when thinking of one character in particular: Dr. Volumnia Gaul.

The Head Gamemaker of the 10th edition of the Hunger Games is played by Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder), and Lawrence admitted to Collider’s Perri Nemiroff that he was initially hesitant to pitch the similarities between Gaul and Wonka to the actress. Even though the connection may seem strange, you can actually understand where the director is coming from when you start really thinking about it. He explained:

“You know, weirdly, we had a long Zoom, and we chatted about the themes of the book and how her character connects to the themes. My reference, and I was a little nervous to say this to her, but my reference for Gaul was actually Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka. There’s sort of a creativity to the job and this kind of sinister underpinning to everything and the joy that they find in the creativity, and I think she, luckily, totally understood it, got it, was really excited to do something different.”

Willy Wonka and Volumnia Gaul Similarities Explained


The original Willy Wonka did have a creepiness to him that was difficult to grasp, especially for children. And, depending on how you look at it, you could argue that Wonka essentially designed a candy theme park that claimed the lives of most kids who were invited to it. Similarly, Volumnia Gaul’s job is to design a killing arena that might be seen as a playground if you’re not a member of the 12 Districts — and they both have fun with that level of sinister creativity.

In fact, Gene Wilder’s creepiness as Willy Wonka became such a trademark for the character that long-time fans of the film missed it when the story was remade by Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. Now, we’ll have to see if Timothée Chalamet brings any of that to the character’s origin story, but before that, we can find out how Davis took inspiration from Wilder when the Hunger Games prequel hits the big screen in just a few weeks.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes premieres in theaters in the U.S. on November 17. Pre-order your tickets below.

Pre-Order AMC Tickets

You can watch the full interview below:

The Hunger Games The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Film Poster

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

64 years before Katniss Everdeen volunteered as tribute, and decades before Coriolanus Snow became the tyrannical President of Panem. The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes follows a young Coriolanus (Tom Blyth) who is the last hope for his failing lineage, the once-proud Snow family that has fallen from grace in a post-war Capitol. With his livelihood threatened, Snow is reluctantly assigned to mentor Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler), a tribute from the impoverished District 12. But after Lucy Gray’s charm captivates the audience of Panem, Snow sees an opportunity to shift their fates. With everything he has worked for hanging in the balance, Snow unites with Lucy Gray to turn the odds in their favor. Battling his instincts for both good and evil, Snow sets out on a race against time to survive and reveal if he will ultimately become a songbird or a snake.

Release Date
November 17, 2023

Francis Lawrence

Rachel Zegler, Hunter Schafer, Viola Davis, Tom Blyth, Peter Dinklage, Jason Schwartzman, Burn Gorman, Fionnula Flanagan


165 minutes

Sci-Fi, Drama, Thriller

Michael Lesslie, Michael Arndt, Suzanne Collins

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