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By Brian Truitt
USA TODAY

It's official: J.J. Abrams is definitely feeling the Force.

Disney confirmed late Friday night that Abrams, theStar Trekfilmmaker and co-creator of TV'sLostandFringe, will directStar Wars: Episode VII, the first of a new series of movies to be released from Lucasfilm under the leadership of producer Kathleen Kennedy.

"It's very exciting to have J.J. aboard leading the charge as we set off to make a new Star Wars movie," Kennedy in a statement. "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."

Episode VIImarks the passing of the torch fromStar Warscreator George Lucas to Abrams. Tentatively scheduled for a 2015 release, it's also the first movie coming out of Disney's $4 billion purchase of Lucasfilm last fall.

"To be a part of the next chapter of theStar Warssaga, to collaborate with Kathy Kennedy and this remarkable group of people, is an absolute honor," Abrams said. "I may be even more grateful to George Lucas now than I was as a kid."

Lucas said he's been impressed by Abrams both as filmmaker and storyteller - Abrams directed the recentStar Trekand its sequelStar Trek Into Darkness(out in May) as well as Super 8. "He's an ideal choice to direct the new Star Wars film and the legacy couldn't be in better hands," said Lucas, who wrote and directed the first Star Wars in 1977 and the three recent prequels to his original trilogy.

Screenwriter Michael Arndt, who won an Oscar forLittle Miss Sunshine, is penning the script, and Episode VII is being produced by Abrams, Bryan Burk, Abrams' Bad Robot company and Kennedy under the Disney/Lucasfilm banner.

Lawrence Kasdan and Simon Kinberg have signed on to be consultants on the project. Kasdan was a screenwriter on two Star Wars films,The Empire Strikes BackandReturn of the Jedi, as well asRaiders of the Lost Ark, and Kinberg was writer onSherlock HolmesandMr. and Mrs. Smith

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