JJ Abrams will direct 'Star Wars: Episode IX'

PHOTO: Producer J.J. Abrams attends a press conference for his Broadway producing debut of "The Play That Goes Wrong" at Sardis, March 2, 2017, in New York City. PlayBruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/Getty Images
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J.J. Abrams has signed on to direct "Star Wars: Episode IX" after the original director left the project, production company Lucasfilm said today.

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He directed "The Force Awakens," the seventh episode of the series, in 2015.

"With 'The Force Awakens,' J.J. delivered everything we could have possibly hoped for, and I am so excited that he is coming back to close out this trilogy," Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy said in a statement.

The "Star Wars" galaxy has lost four directors in two years. On Sept. 5, Lucasfilm announced that "Jurassic World" and "Book of Henry" director Colin Trevorrow was no longer directing the next installment of the epic space opera, which first hit the big screen in 1977.

"Colin has been a wonderful collaborator throughout the development process, but we have all come to the conclusion that our visions for the project differ," Lucasfilm said in a statement at the time.

In June, co-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller ("The Lego Movie," "21 Jump Street") dropped out of the still untitled young Han Solo movie in the middle of filming, citing "different creative visions." Ron Howard was hired to reshoot some scenes and finish the film, which stars Alden Ehrenreich as Han and Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian. The movie is scheduled to open in May 2018.

In 2015, "Fantastic Four" director Josh Trank bowed out of another planned spinoff, reportedly citing the high pressure of directing a "Star Wars" movie.

"Episode IX" is set to be released in May 2019. One of the challenges for filmmakers is how the movie will handle the storyline of resistance leader Gen. Leia Organa after Carrie Fisher died suddenly last year.

Fisher had completed work on "Episode VIII" when she died last December. The film, "The Last Jedi," opens in the U.S. on Dec. 15.

ABC News and Lucasfilm are both owned by parent company Disney.

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