September 21, 2001 08:24 AM

Stellar screen favorites Julie Andrews, 65, and Jack Nicholson, 64, opera star Luciano Pavarotti, 65, composer and music producer Quincy Jones, 68, and concert pianist Van Cliburn, 67, are to be the recipients of this year’s prestigious 23rd annual Kennedy Center Honors, it was announced Wednesday. The quintet will be saluted at a gala event at Washington’s Kennedy Center on Dec. 2, to be attended by President Bush and first lady Laura Bush and a bevy of stars. Nicholson told Variety columnist Army Archerd that he’ll attend the ceremony “with bells on.” Having met Andrews and Cliburn, Nicholson also notes, “I feel like I’ve known Pavarotti a long time . . . we used his singing in ‘The Witches of Eastwick.’ ” In her reaction to being named a Kennedy Center honoree, the British-born Andrews practically echoed her 1965 Oscar speech, when she won for “Mary Poppins” and said, “I’ve heard you Americans are generous, but this is ridiculous.” This time, she said, “As a British citizen, I am so deeply touched and honored to be embraced in this manner . . . The generosity of the American people and its artistic institutions have enabled me to participate in a body of work through the years which has given me great joy and fulfillment.”

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