With a classical upbringing that instilled in her a fundamental love and appreciation of the fine arts, and that found her traveling in extremely cultured Parisian circles during girlhood, the glamorous Julie Gayet balanced collegiate courses in vocal performance, drama, art, and dance, then opted to move into a professional acting career. A famously meticulous performer and something of a perfectionist, Gayet insisted, from the very beginning, on engaging in months of advance preparation prior to tackling a new role. She took her cinematic bow on a note of great esteem by working for Krzysztof Kieslowski on the director's Blue, though she maintains an extremely low profile in the picture (as a girl in the Paris Metro whose "silhouette" is visible onscreen). Released two years later, the legendary Agnès Varda's A Hundred and One Nights boosted Gayet to fourth billing; she played Camille, a French cinema student who assists the century-old Simon Cinéma (Michel Piccoli) in remembering the highs and lows of the first century of French filmmaking. Gayet next obtained the prestigious Prix Romy Schneider for her work in Laurent Bouhnik's Sélect Hôtel (1996).
Many Gallic box-office highlights were quick to follow over the next ten years, including the 1999 Les Gens Qui S'Aiment, the 2002 La Turbulence des Fluides, and the 2003 Lovely Rita: Sainte Patronne des Cas Désespérés. The gay-themed romantic comedy 3 Guys, 1 Girl, 2 Weddings was Gayet's (the "girl" of the title) first major international success. In 2006, the actress garnered immense popularity for her lead in director Patrice Leconte's romantic comedy My Best Friend, opposite French screen icon Daniel Auteuil. She plays Catherine, the business partner of a ruthless antique dealer (Auteuil), who makes a wager with him over the ownership of a rare vase.