Sci-fi and action filmmaker J.J. Abrams will direct the next “Star Wars” film, the franchise’s creators and owners confirmed Saturday, saying its “legacy couldn’t be in better hands.”
George Lucas’s Lucasfilm, bought by entertainment giant Disney for $4 billion in October, said Oscar-winning writer Michael Arndt will write the screenplay for “Star Wars: Episode VII,” due out in 2015.
“It’s very exciting to have J.J. aboard, leading the charge as we set off to make a new ‘Star Wars’ movie,” said Kathleen Kennedy, who took over last year as president of Lucasfilm, confirming industry media reports.
“J.J. is the perfect director to helm this… He understands the essence of the ‘Star Wars’ experience, and will bring that talent to create an unforgettable motion picture,” she added, in a statement issued by Disney.
George Lucas added: “I’ve consistently been impressed with J.J. as a filmmaker and storyteller. He’s an ideal choice to direct the new ‘Star Wars’ film and the legacy couldn’t be in better hands.”
Abrams himself said the collaboration was “an absolute honor.”
“I may be even more grateful to George Lucas now than I was as a kid,” he added.
Abrams, 46, directed “Mission: Impossible III” (2006), “Star Trek” (2009) and “Super 8″ (2011). He is the co-creator of the popular television series “Lost,” and is currently finishing work on “Star Trek Into Darkness.”
Writer Arndt won a best screenplay Oscar for 2006′s “Little Miss Sunshine.” He was also nominated for an Academy Award for “Toy Story 3″ in 2011.
His other credits include “Brave,” nominated for best animated film at next month’s Oscars.
Disney announced when it bought Lucasfilm last year that it was planning a new trilogy in the wildly popular Star Wars sci-fi saga, which has raked in an estimated $4.4 billion since 1977.
Lucas — who created the saga and directed four of the six films to date — will serve as a creative consultant for the three new films, which are expected to come out every two to three years.
Lucas’s original “Star Wars” movie in 1977, which marked the birth of a new era of blockbuster cinema, launched the career of a young Harrison Ford.
It was soon followed by the equally popular “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) and “Return of the Jedi” (1983).
In the late 1990s, Lucas drew mixed reviews when he resurrected the blockbuster series with a prequel trilogy: “The Phantom Menace” (1999), “The Attack of the Clones” (2002) and “The Revenge of the Sith” (2005).
The newer trilogy featured Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen.