J.J. Abrams Isn't Planning To Direct 'Mission: Impossible IV'

He will produce alongside Tom Cruise and promises the story is 'so damn cool.'

In 2006, J.J. Abrams was largely known as a TV guy, one of the creative minds behind fare like "Lost" and "Alias." Then came a turn in the directing chair for "Mission: Impossible III," when he popped off explosions galore around Tom Cruise, and Abrams' career was never the same. Rebooted "Star Trek," anyone?

Now, a fourth "Mission" is in the works. Will Abrams step back into the role that brought him from small-screen whiz kid to big-screen guru? That seems unlikely, as Abrams made clear in an interview with MTV News.

"I'm producing with Tom," he said recently. "My guess is, given other things, that I will not be directing the movie."

So it seems a new director will have to step up -- the fourth in as many films. But what about Cruise? While the Hollywood star has been a steady presence as agent Ethan Hunt since the first "Mission" in 1996, rumors have been floating around that a younger actor -- or even an ensemble -- might take over for Cruise as the focus of the franchise. Is this really true?

"I don't want to give anything away yet, but I will say that it's a story that will feel consistent with the world that has been created," he explained. "It's not a reboot kind of thing."

What is known is that Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec are penning the screenplay, and the whole thing came together because Cruise wanted to reunite with Abrams. "Tom asked if I'd be interested in working with him again," Abrams said. "I didn't have a sense of what the story would be, but very quickly this idea came to mind, and Tom reacted to it in a way that got me excited, and then we got André and Josh to come onboard, and they began developing the idea with us."

Appelbaum and Nemec are "Alias" vets who Abrams said are "so adept at that kind of genre and putting great characters into insane situations." Neither Cruise nor Abrams wanted to work on something that didn't feel like a worthy successor to the first three "Mission" films, but, as he said, the "story was just so damn cool, and we got so excited about it."

Given Abrams' commitment to the "Star Trek" franchise, it seems as if his likely decision to skip directorial duties on "Mission" means audiences could see the fourth film in a shorter timeframe than if he were helming the movie. Shooting could even start soon.

"My hope is that when the script comes in -- the dream would be that we could shoot this soon," he said.

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