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JJ Abrams has officially signed on to direct the next installment of the Star Wars franchise.
Disney has closed a deal with the filmmaker to come aboard Episode VII of the sci-fi series, confirming reports from Thursday that the Star Trek and Mission Impossible III director was negotiating for the job.
Landing Abrams for the high-profile gig is a coup for Disney and Lucasfilm’s new chief Kathleen Kennedy.
“It’s very exciting to have J.J. aboard leading the charge as we set off to make a new Star Wars movie,” said Kennedy. “J.J. is the perfect director to helm this. Beyond having such great instincts as a filmmaker, he has an intuitive understanding of this franchise. He understands the essence of the Star Wars experience, and will bring that talent to create an unforgettable motion picture.”
Abrams said in November that he wasn’t interested in taking over the venerable franchise from creator George Lucas. But sources tell THR that Kennedy contacted Abrams in early January and went to visit the filmmaker at the Santa Monica offices of his Bad Robot production company. Kennedy is said to have won over the filmmaker with her pitch. She will now develop the property with Abrams and writer Michael Arndt, who has been writing the script since October.
Episode VII is set for release in 2015, but sources say Abrams has not committed to that release date, meaning the date could be changed if the development process requires it.
Abrams has a lot on his plate. His Star Trek Into Darkness is set for release in May, and sources say he is committed to producing for Paramount the next installments of the Mission Impossible and Star Trek franchises, among others. He’s also a prolific TV producer with several pilots in contention for the fall season.
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