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Monday, 12 February, 2001, 19:50 GMT
Juliette's sweet tooth
Juliet Binoche studied the art of chocolate-making
By BBC News Online's Tim Masters

If ever proof were needed that chocolate is good for you, then look no further than Juliette Binoche.

The star of the film Chocolat exudes a healthy glow both on and off-screen, but she admits that she's happy not to eat any of the sweet stuff for a while longer.

"I associate chocolate with my childhood," Binoche told BBC News Online. "I've always loved chocolate and so for me it was a close subject."

In preparation for her role as Vianne Rocher - the woman whose chocolate shop transforms a sleepy French village - Binoche studied with the chocolate specialist Walter Bienz and visited several French chocolateries.

"There is chocolate in Asia, Africa and South America, yet I discovered each tastes a little different, and each seems to bring its own special energy," she says.


She also visited Joanne Harris, the author of the original novel, in Yorkshire to ask her about her inspiration.

Binoche: Awakening small-town passions
"She's a little bit of a white witch - she is Vianne for me, so I wanted to go and see her. For me it is very important to go back to the writer as they are the main core of the story.

"She explained that chocolate has a long history as something that has been shared around the world," says Binoche.

Binoche admits there wasn't as much chocolate-eating during filming as one might think.

"Because of continuity we weren't allowed to pick up chocolate off the set, and it was melting under the lights, but I had some very good chocolate in my dressing room!"

But she says she has been offered a lot of chocolate while promoting the film.

"I'm a little sick of it at the moment. I wouldn't eat it now - maybe in a month in two."

Despite Chocolat's box office success in the US, Binoche plays down hopes of an Oscar.

"I don't make assumptions. I am not expecting anything. It is my way of staying healthy," she said at the Chocolat premiere in London on Monday.

Binoche also reveals she would like to do more West End theatre, following her London stage debut in the Almeida production of Pirandello's Naked.

"I would love to come back to London. I would love to come back to the theatre - it is risky and dangerous and I love it."


Johnny Depp co-stars as river gypsy Roux
In the film, Binoche's character Vianne Rocher is an outsider whose irresistible confections awaken hidden appetites. She also forms a special bond with another outsider - the riverboat traveller Roux (Johnny Depp).

Binoche sees parallels between outsiders and the acting profession.

"Being an actor is such an abstract way of living your life. You have to be an outsider in order to understand people ... for me it is almost a necessity to be an outsider."

The chocolate in Chocolat is more than just a sweet. It is a symbol and a catalyst of change.

And, as this is Hollywood, there's a not a spot to be seen.

The BBC's Rosie Millard
"The book was inspired by a chance remark by her husband"



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13 Feb 01 | Entertainment
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