Star Wars VII: JJ Abrams to direct

Mark Hammill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford The next three films will follow on from the original trilogy, released between 1977 and 1983

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Sci-fi director JJ Abrams will head up the seventh Star Wars film, Lucasfilm owner Walt Disney Co has said.

Star Wars creator George Lucas said he was the "ideal choice" to direct the movie - due out in 2015 - adding "the legacy couldn't be in better hands".

It will be scripted by Oscar-winning writer Michael Arndt.

Abrams, who co-created Lost and directed the Star Trek reboot, said he was "more grateful to George Lucas now than I was as a kid".

In October, Disney announced it had bought Lucasfilm for $4.05bn (£2.5bn) and was committed to three new films.

Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, who will produce the films, said Abrams was "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," she said in a statement.

JJ Abrams Abrams said it was "an absolute honour" to direct a Star Wars film

Abrams, who has also directed films including Mission: Impossible III and Super 8, said in a 2009 interview with the Los Angeles Times that, "as a kid, Star Wars was much more my thing than Star Trek was".

The original Star Wars trilogy - which consists of the original film in 1977, 1980's The Empire Strikes Back and 1983's Return of the Jedi - was always envisioned by Lucas as the central chunk of a nine-movie cycle.

The films followed the fortunes of young hero Luke Skywalker, cocky pilot Han Solo and the feisty Princess Leia as they battled against the Galactic Empire.

A trilogy of Star Wars prequels - 1999's The Phantom Menace, 2002's Attack of the Clones and 2005's Revenge of the Sith - followed.

Disney has previously said Lucas would remain as a creative consultant on the series.

In October, he revealed he had written story treatments for the seventh, eighth and ninth instalments which he would hand over to Kennedy.

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