War of the Worlds: According to Variety, Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise will bring The War of the Worlds to the bigscreen, with Cruise expected to star.

Depending on how quickly the two get a War of the Worlds script they like, the sci-fi epic could start in late 2005. Spielberg is now completing work on The Terminal with Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

David Koepp will rewrite a Josh Friedman-penned first-draft script based on "War," the classic H.G. Wells alien-invasion novel..

"War" became permanently etched in American culture when Orson Welles' Mercury Theater performed the story on radio in 1938 and ignited a nationwide panic when listeners didn't realize it was fiction. H.G. Wells wrote "The War of the Worlds" in 1898. In addition to the Mercury Theater radio production, the book inspired a 1953 film starring Gene Barry and Les Tremayne.

Spielberg's plans for a fourth installment of the Indiana Jones series for Paramount have stalled, and he's now interested in "The Rivals," the Robin Swicord-scripted drama centered on 19th-century legit stars Sarah Bernhardt and Eleonora Duse. That pic, produced by "American Beauty" duo Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen along with Carl Rumbaugh and Susan Batson, seems likely for a winter start at DreamWorks.

The emergence of a Spielberg-Cruise pairing gives Paramount another opportunity to alter its image as the town's most cautious studio, and instead show it will step up for occasional swing-for-the-fences projects. Studio recently engaged Robert Rodriguez to write and direct another sci-fi classic, Edgar Rice Burroughs' 1912 novel "A Princess of Mars," which is being prepped by Alphaville's Jim Jacks and Sean Daniel. Par's also signed Charlize Theron for sci-fi fantasy Aeon Flux and Adam Sandler for The Longest Yard in a Sony co-production.

As a scribe, Koepp was the go-to guy for Spielberg on the first two Jurassic Park films. He also proved adept at large-canvas fare with Spider-man and its sequel, and he most recently scripted and directed the Johnny Depp starrer Secret Window.

Brian B.