SPIELBERG PLUS CRUISE: In a town where handshake deals are common, one act of flesh-pressing that potentially lays the groundwork for a rather large (and gross-participation-heavy) movie has Holly-wood buzzing. Dish hears that director Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise, who’ve long wanted to work together, have targeted next summer as the time they’d like to make it happen: That’s the earliest the two have converging scheduling windows. And it has led to a rash of speculation as to what the project will be.

Spielberg, who’s coming off “Saving Private Ryan,” is next expected to direct “Memoirs of a Geisha,” and then was tentatively expected to follow with New Line’s adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks bestseller “The Notebook,” which is produced by Mark Johnson. Speculation has centered that this project could be the benefactor of a Spielberg-Cruise convergence.

Though Spielberg isn’t even yet locked into a deal to do that picture, sources said he’s had input in its development. The adaptation was written by Jeremy Leven (“Don Juan De Marco”), and is now being worked on by Mark Andrus, who collaborated with James L. Brooks on the Oscar-nominated script for “As Good As It Gets.”

“Notebook” is the story of an elderly man who visits a woman in a nursing home and tells her a love story. It turns out it’s their romantic tale, but she’s got Alzheimer’s, so it’s fresh each time she hears it. Most of the movie is flashbacks. It certainly fits Cruise better than playing a geisha, but doesn’t seem as ideal a Cruise vehicle as, say, the A. Scott Berg book “Lindbergh,” about the famed aviator.

That project, which Spielberg intends to direct sometime in the future, can’t be readied that quickly. Berg’s book comes out from Putnam this fall, but a scripter hasn’t yet been hired on the project, which will be made by DreamWorks.

Spielberg finishes projects very quickly, and Cruise, who just finished “Eyes Wide Shut” for director Stanley Kubrick, is expected to topline the sequel to “Mission: Impossible” at Paramount with John Woo at the helm. As long as he doesn’t do another film with Kubrick, he could knock down two films by the summer. He’s got a slew of projects in the hatching stage, including the biopic of music producer Phil Spector with Cameron Crowe at Universal, and he’s interested in setting up the Marvel franchise Iron Man.

A spokeswoman for Cruise said he indeed plans to work with Spielberg, but was unfamiliar with a timetable and said they hadn’t found a project yet. Both are CAA repped.

STAGE HEAT: Spending some stage time in Gotham after a celebrated season toplining the series “Murder One” certainly hasn’t hurt actor Anthony LaPaglia. In the wake of winning a Tony Award for his Broadway performance in “A View From the Bridge,” LaPaglia has been offered roles in films by two directors who are Gotham fixtures. He’ll join Sean Penn and Uma Thurman in Woody Allen’s untitled film, which will begin shooting in September.

LaPaglia has also been offered a lead role in Spike Lee’s next film, “The Summer of Sam,” which features John Leguizamo. LaPaglia wants to do that movie as well, if he can fit it into his schedule. The actor is repped by ICM’s Sam Cohn, JoAnne Colonna and Aleen Keshishian, and managed by Industry Ent.’s Julie Yorn.

LEE FREAKS: Speaking of Spike Lee, the director is talking to John Leguizamo about more than merely summering in “Sam.” Lee will direct an HBO adaptation of Leguizamo’s one-man stage hit “Freak” for the payweb, sources said. Leguizamo ends his run at the Cort Theatre July 5, and HBO and Lee are looking to shoot as soon as next week. Lee would film two performances to construct the TV version.

HBO has turned two previous Leguizamo one-man efforts into programs: “Mambo Mouth” and “Spic-o-rama.”

Lee is also a frequent HBO collaborator. Though he dropped out of “Subway Stories” when he didn’t want to cut his segment to fit the required time allotment, HBO worked with Lee on his celebrated docu “Four Little Girls,” and he has done interview segments with bad boy athletes, the ear-biting boxer Mike Tyson and surly Chicago White Sox outfielder Albert Belle.

The new project is being done by HBO’s Original Programming department, under vice president Carolyn Strauss and prexy Chris Albrecht.

“MAGUS” MOVIE: Rutger Hauer will star with Noah Taylor (“Shine”), Embeth Davidtz, Stuart Townsend and Ian Holm in “Simon Magus,” a film being directed by Ben Hopkins from his own script. Pro-duced by Robert Jones (“The Usual Suspects”), the film is shooting in Wales, with Hauer playing a squire opposite Taylor in a mystical tale of fantasy and romance. Goldwyn Films is handling international rights and hopes to screen the film next Cannes.

Hauer’s repped by Hyler Management and UTA, with attorney Mark Stankevich.

DISHINGS: This week’s unattainable hot read that every studio’s trying to lay hands on is “Little Green Men,” a satirical novel by Christopher Buckley. Nobody’s seen the whole manuscript yet, and it’s being guarded closely by Random House. Buckley’s proven eminently optionable, with Warner Bros. developing “God Is My Broker” for Paula Weinstein and Barry Levinson, and “Thank You for Not Smoking” being developed by Mel Gibson and Bruce Davies’ Icon. Dish hear it’s about a George Will-like conservative journalist who is abducted by aliens … Taking a cue from the New York Yankees penchant for talent-raiding on foreign shores, the Gotham office of the Gersh Agency is importing talent from all over the globe. British “Full Monty” star Tom Wilkinson, who’s currently filming Ang Lee’s “Ride With the Devil” for U and “Shakespeare in Love” at Miramax, just joined the agency to be repped by Larry Taube, Lorrie Bartlett and Ken Kaplan. British actress Alex Kingston, the “ER” cast member who has shot two hiatus pics — “Baby Love” and “The Space Between Us” — also joined the percentery, repped by Taube and Bartlett. Portugal-born actor Joaquim De Almeida (“Desperado”) signed with Taube and Stephen Hirsh, and Italian star Andrea DiStefano (“The Prince of Homburg”) signed with Gersh’s Bill Butler. He’ll next be seen in the Nicholas Myer-directed “Vendetta” for HBO.