LOS ANGELES – Another universe of sci-fi fans has been put in the hands of J.J. Abrams.
According to multiple trade reports, Abrams, 46, is set to direct the next installment of "Star Wars," which Disney has said will be "Episode 7" and due out in 2015. Disney bought "Star Wars" maker Lucasfilm last month for $4.06 billion.
The Emmy-award-winning director of the TV show "Lost" also captained the reboot of "Star Trek" for rival studio Paramount Pictures, with the next installment in that series, "Star Trek: Into Darkness," set to hit theaters May 17.
Citing unnamed sources, the news was reported earlier by Hollywood trade outlets The Wrap, Deadline, The Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety.
Messages left by The Associated Press for Abrams' representatives as well as Disney and Lucasfilm were not immediately returned.
Soon after the news broke Thursday afternoon, websites were flush with chatter. On Twitter, "J.J. Abrams," "Star Wars" and "(hash)Star Trek" were all trending topics.
Roberto Orci, a producer and writer who has worked with Abrams on "Star Trek," "Star Trek: Into Darkness," and "Mission: Impossible III," appeared to confirm the reports on Twitter. In response to a question about Abrams' involvement, Orci tweeted back "True!" He also responded to a Spanish-speaking questioner, "Creo que si!" ("I think so.")
Despite denying his interest in directing the next "Star Wars" following The Walt Disney Co.'s October announcement, many people pegged Abrams as the most obvious choice.
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."
Abrams also worked with Lucasfilm's Industrial Light and Magic special effects division for "Mission: Impossible III."
He is the second big name associated with the new "Star Wars" films to be launched under the Disney umbrella. Late last year, Lucasfilm confirmed that Michael Arndt, who wrote "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Toy Story 3" would pen the screenplay for "Episode 7."
Adam Frazier, a staff writer for the entertainment website GeeksofDoom.com, said Abrams should be able to make the next "Star Wars" original but at the same time appease longtime fans.
"He took the `Star Trek' franchise, which was just drowning in misery, and he was able to bring that back to life," Frazier said. "If there's anyone that can do it with `Star Wars' I think it's him."