J.J. isn’t going to be able to return to the Mission Impossible franchise’s director’s chair for the fourth film, but he has no plans to abandon the franchise. Mr. Abrams is remaining as a producer and is partly responsible for the story, but most importantly he’s looking for a strong director to follow him up. He and Cruise have been looking into a number of candidates, and the list is quite interesting- Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland), Edgar Wright (the upcoming Scott Pilgrim), and Brad Bird.

Framed as the lead contender (or at least the most likely choice), Brad Bird is mentioned by THR to be looking for another live-action vehicle while his ‘Frisco earthquake movie 1906 sits idling at Warner Brothers. To meet Paramount’s announced release date of May 27th, 2011 for the fourth Cruise-driven spy thriller, Bird would have to hop on soon.

If 1906 is indeed stalled out, than this could be a great move for Bird. Motherfucker knows action and the Mission Impossible universe is a well-budgeted sandbox to start out his live-action career in. While no entry in the franchise has truly been spectacular, they all average out well above “just okay,” maybe even broaching into “good.” Bird has gifts in the story and cleverly-staged-set-pieces departments, so there’s no doubt he could bring Mission Impossible to a new level. If he’s as eager to break out of the world of pixels and into live-action as is often circulated, this could be quite a break.

Look for info soon- Paramount’s got to get this puppy moving.

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