Julian Fellowes was born in Egypt, where his father was with the British Embassy.
While attending Magdalene College, Cambridge, he joined the Footlights comedy group. He then studied at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. Beginning in the mid-1970s, he played character roles in scores of television series and movies; he later had a recurring role on BBC TV’s Monarch of the Glen (2000–05). In the 1990s he began to write TV adaptations of novels, notably Little Sir Nicholas (1990), Little Lord Fauntleroy (1995), and The Prince and the Pauper (1996).
His first produced screenplay, Gosford Park (2001) earned him several honours, including an Academy Award for best original screenplay. He then wrote scripts for Vanity Fair (2004); Separate Lies (2005), which he also directed; The Young Victoria (2009); The Tourist (2010); and Romeo and Juliet (2013). He also published the novels Snobs (2004) and Past Imperfect (2008) and has written romance novels under pseudonyms. His interactive narrative Belgravia (2016) is a serialized novel initially released as a mobile-phone or tablet app containing both text and audiobook versions of the story.
In 2010, Julian created and produced Downton Abbey. In 2011 the show received an Emmy for best drama series, and he also received an Emmy for his writing on the show. Julian continued to work on other projects. In 2012 he penned the script for the TV miniseries Titanic. He also wrote the book for the stage musical School of Rock (2015), which was adapted from Richard Linklater’s film of the same name, and wrote and produced a 2016 television adaptation of the Anthony Trollope novel Doctor Thorne (1858).
He was granted a life peerage in 2011.