Born in Bucharest, Romania, Gheorghiu graduated from Bucharest's Institute of Theater and Cinematographic Arts in 1972, where she studied under Ion Cojar, the Director of the National Theatre of Bucharest. She made her stage debut in a 1971 production of "Sanziana and Pepelea" at the institute's Studioul Casandra theater and went on to appear in a number of other plays while studying at the institute. Joining Bucharest's Bulandra Theatre (Teatrul Bulandra) in 1976, Gheorghiu went on to establish herself as one of the theater's main players, appearing in 36 plays over the course of 25 years. She appeared in a variety of productions, ranging from Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" and "A Winter's Tale" to Chekhov's "Three Sisters" to Molière's "Tartuffe."In 1980, Gheorghiu made her feature film debut in the Romanian film, "Labirintul" (The Labyrinth). She became known to Romanian audiences in Stere Gulea's "Morometii" (1988) and later made her French film debut in the 1993 award-winning drama, "Trahir." Gheorghiu went on to appear in Radu Mihaileanu's "Train de vie" (1998) - which took home the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 1999 - and Michael Haneke's "Code Unknown" (2000), opposite Juliette Binoche. Next, she appeared in Cristi Puiu's "Marfa si banii" (2001) and re-teamed with Haneke in "The Time of the Wolf" (2003). Portraying ambulance nurse Mioara Avram in the Romanian film, "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" (2005) (Moartea domnului Lazarescu) - a dark comedy that delved into the less-than-helpful Romanian health-care system - Gheorghiu received critical acclaim on an international scale she had yet to experience. She won the Golden Bayard Award for Best Actress, was named Best Actress at the Transylvania International Film Festival and in the States, garnered the award for Best Supporting Actress by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association in 2006.