It’s Official! J.J. Abrams Will Direct ‘Star Wars Episode VII’

The director raves about 'the next chapter of the "Star Wars" saga' in Disney press release.

His words may not have carried the dramatic weight of “I am your father,” but J.J. Abrams has broken his silence about “Star Wars.” In a press release issued by Disney and Lucasfilm on Saturday, the television creator turned filmmaker, who successfully resurrected the “Star Trek” franchise, spoke about the dream-come-true “Episode VII” directing gig.

“To be a part of the next chapter of the ‘Star Wars’ saga, to collaborate with Kathy Kennedy and this remarkable group of people, is an absolute honor,” said Abrams. “I may be even more grateful to George Lucas now than I was as a kid.”

Speculation was rampant about who would take the directing reigns of the legendary series following Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm and the installment of producer Kathleen Kennedy as president/brand manager for “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones.” (Kennedy co-founded Amblin Entertainment with Steven Spielberg in the 1980s). News broke of the Abrams hiring Thursday; Kennedy and creator George Lucas offered glowing support in the press release.

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“I’ve consistently been impressed with J.J. as a filmmaker and storyteller,” said Lucas in the statement.

Lucas had long maintained there would be no more “Star Wars” films following the conclusion of the prequel trilogy and followed up the surprise announcement about his company’s sale by revealing that he’d be giving most of the $4 billion Disney paid for LucasFilm to charity. “Episode VII” will be set after the events in “Return of the Jedi.” Since “Episode VII” was announced in October of last year, Abrams had insisted he wouldn’t be involved, making the argument that he was too big of a fan (in so many words) to tackle it and preferred to remain in the audience.

Obviously that changed and Lucas himself couldn’t be happier. “He’s an ideal choice to direct the new ‘Star Wars’ film and the legacy couldn’t be in better hands,” the “Star Wars” mastermind said in the press release.

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Indeed, Abrams’ love affair with “Star Wars” has been well-documented. He’s confessed a much stronger connection to the franchise than to “Star Trek,” which he rebooted in 2009. Abrams created or co-created TV series like “Alias” and “Lost.” He made his theatrical debut with “Mission: Impossible III” and followed that up with “Star Trek” and “Super 8.” Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound worked on all of his films, including “Star Trek Into Darkness,” which is due later this year.

Critics described “Super 8″ as a love-letter to Spielberg films like “E.T.”, which Kennedy produced. “It’s very exciting to have J.J. aboard leading the charge as we set off to make a new ‘Star Wars’ movie,” she said. “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 will direct from a screenplay written by Michael Arndt, who won an Academy Award for his work on “Little Miss Sunshine” and also wrote “Toy Story 3″ and the upcoming “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” Abrams, longtime producing partner Bryan Burk and Bad Robot will produce alongside Kennedy. “Star Wars” legend Lawrence Kasdan, who was a writer on “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi,” will serve as a consulting producer. He will be joined by Simon Kinberg, a writer on “Sherlock Holmes” and “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”

Lucas directed all three entries in the prequel trilogy himself, kicking off with “Episode I: The Phantom Menace” in 1999, “Episode II: Attack of the Clones” in 2002 and concluding with “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” in 2005.

The original trilogy, which changed the face of both moviemaking and pop culture, kicked off with the Lucas-directed “Star Wars” (later retitled “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope”) in 1977 and was followed by 1980′s “The Empire Strikes Back,” directed by the late Irvin Kershner) and 1983′s “Return of the Jedi,” from the late Richard Marquand.

Last week’s news makes the 46-year-old Abrams only the fourth person to direct a “Star Wars” film and only one of two who are still alive. Abrams traditionally likes to keep a tight-lid on details surrounding his projects while they are in production, so it remains to be seen what sort of direction he will steer that far, far away galaxy. But the prospect of the combination of lightsabers and lens flares already had “Star Wars” experts and fans salivating last week.

“Star Wars Episode VII” is due in theaters in 2015.