By Cole Hill ( | First Posted: Jan 31, 2013 04:08 PM EST

Director J.J. Abrams arrives at the 2012 Vanity Fair Oscar party in West Hollywood, California February 26, 2012. (Photo : REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT) (OSCARS-PARTIES))

After months of speculation, Disney finally signed "Star Trek: Into Darkness" filmmaker J.J. Abrams on to direct the upcoming "Star Wars: Episode VII," surprising and delighting fans. Many had counted Abrams out of the running for the job - including Abrams. So, just how did Disney come to change his mind? Two words: Kathleen Kennedy.

The new head of Lucasfilm, Kennedy was crucial in convincing Abrams to rethink his position on the project.

Abrams and Kennedy reportedly held a secret meeting with "Episode VII" writers Michael Arndt and Lawrence Kasdan on Dec. 19, shortly after Abrams had distanced himself as a potential directing candidate for the blockbuster.

"I learned firsthand how incredible and persuasive she is. The thing about any pre-existing franchise - I'd sort of done that. But when I met with Kathy, it was suddenly very tantalizing," Abrams said of Kennedy to the Hollywood Reporter.

At that meeting, Abrams "was flipping out when he found out that Michael and Larry were on the movie already," Kennedy told The Hollywood Reporter.

Arndt, the Oscar-winning writer of "Toy Story 3," is reportedly a "Star Wars" expert. "Lost" co-creator and writer of the upcoming "Star Trek" film Damon Lindelof echoed Abrams' enthusiasm when news broke of his involvement with "Episode VII."

"If this is true, Michael Arndt is the perfect choice. We're in good hands, fellow nerds," he Tweeted.

Arndt has lectured extensively on the art of storytelling at numerous writers' retreats, like the Hawaii Writers Conference in Maui and the Austin Film Festival, always featuring a lengthy and detailed explanation of why the original "Star Wars" ending is so creatively satisfying.

Kasdan's name should set off some internal geek alarm for rabid George Lucas fans, and "Star Wars" acolytes; he wrote the screenplays for both "The Empire Strikes Back," and "Return of the Jedi," and was also responsible for writing "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Kasdan's other list of credits include the neo film noir, "Body Heat," the 80s generation defining "The Big Chill," and everyone's favorite Kevin Costner/Whitney Houston vehicle, "The Bodyguard."

Kennedy said that after her first three-hour meeting with the "Lost" creator, Abrams was "on the ceiling" about the prospect of making "Episode VII."

"If there was any pause on JJ's part, it was the same pause everybody has - including myself - stepping into this," she said. "Which is, it's daunting."

Lucasfilm and Disney have not commented about vetting writers for "Episode VIII" and "Episode IX."

Arndt's treatment "will bring the saga of the Skywalkers, the Force-imbued family comprising Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader and twins Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa, to a close in a new trilogy," said The Hollywood Reporter.

The story is said to focus on a new generation of heroes and would feature appearances by Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher in older incarnations of their beloved characters from the original Star Wars trilogy.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, "Sources have said not to discount the possibility that a number of characters from previous 'Star Wars' films could reappear - even the dead Jedis, who have a habit of showing up in spirit form."

Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Billy Dee Williams are all interested in reprising their roles in "Episode VII," Entertainment Weekly reported.

The most recent rumors suggest the film could be based around a female protagonist.

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