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LOS ANGELES (AP) - It's official. The force is with J.J. Abrams.

The Walt Disney Co. issued a statement Friday night confirming reports that had been circulating for two days that Abrams, Emmy-award-winning creator of TV's "Lost" and director of 2009's "Star Trek" movie, has been pegged to direct the seventh installment of the "Star Wars" franchise.

"J.J. is the perfect director to helm this," said Kathleen Kennedy, the movie's producer and president of Lucasfilm, which was acquired by Disney last month for $4.06 billion.

"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," Kennedy said in the statement.

The movie will have a script from "Toy Story 3" writer Michael Arndt and a 2015 release.

Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi" in the original trilogy, will work as a consultant on the new project.

Abrams has already headed the reboot of another storied space franchise, "Star Trek," for rival studio Paramount Pictures. The next installment in that series, "Star Trek: Into Darkness," is set to hit theaters May 17.

But he has long been known as a "Star Wars" devotee. Abrams spoke about the plot of the original "Star Wars" in the lecture series "TED Talks" in March 2007, and reportedly became enamored of "Lost" co-creator Damon Lindelof partly because Lindelof was wearing a "Star Wars" T-shirt when they first met.

In 2009, Abrams told the Los Angeles Times: "As a kid, `Star Wars' was much more my thing than `Star Trek' was."

In Friday night's statement he called it an "absolute honor" to get the job.

"I may be even more grateful to George Lucas now than I was as a kid," Abrams said.

Lucas himself said in the statement that "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."


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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