Updated 9:30 p.m. PT:
Disney on Friday night confirmed TheWrap's earlier report that J.J. Abrams will direct "Star Wars: Episode VII," the latest film in the iconic franchise and the first since Disney bought Lucasfilm last October.
“J.J. is the perfect director to helm this," Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said in a statement. "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.”
“I’ve consistently been impressed with J.J. as a filmmaker and storyteller," George Lucas added. "He’s an ideal choice to direct the new 'Star Wars' film and the legacy couldn’t be in better hands.” Abrams described his next directing job as an "absolute honor" and said, "I may be even more grateful to George Lucas now than I was as a kid."
Abrams and producing partner Bryan Burk will produce under the Bad Robot banner with Kennedy and Disney/Lucasfilm. Simon Kinberg and Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi," are consulting.
Here's the original story:
J.J. Abrams will direct the next "Star Wars" film for Disney, taking stewardship of one of Hollywood's most iconic and lucrative film franchises, an individual with knowledge of the production told TheWrap.
"Argo" director Ben Affleck was also in contention, another individual with knowledge of the talks told TheWrap.
Ever since Disney bought Lucasfilm last year and announced it would make new "Star Wars" films, fans, members of the media and industry executives have speculated about which director would take the job. Abrams' name always came up, but he told Entertainment Weekly in November that he wasn't going to take the job.
He did say "Star Wars" was the first movie that "blew my mind" in terms of special effects.
Lucasfilm Chief Kathleen Kennedy has been courting Abrams, one of the most successful directors and producers in Hollywood -- and a man beloved by fanboys. He runs one of the industry's top production companies, Bad Robot, and created or co-created television franchises like "Lost," "Fringe" and "Alias." He has also directed film spectacles "Mission: Impossible III," "Star Trek" and "Super 8."
The lure of the Jedi was too strong, and it will no doubt complicate his relationship with Paramount, where Bad Robot is a top supplier. Abrams has been feverishly working on "Star Trek Into Darkness," his second Star Trek film since he rebooted the franchise in 2009. "Into Darkness," still in post-production, opens May 18.
Though he has several producing jobs in front of him, Abrams had been uncommitted as a director. He will have to jump right into "Star Wars," which Disney has slated for a 2015 release. "Little Miss Sunshine" screenwriter Michael Arndt is penning the script.
Reached by TheWrap, Lynne Hale, spokeswoman for Lucasfilm, declined to comment immediately. Neither CAA, which represents Abrams, nor Bad Robot immediately responded to requests for comment.