Actor Dileep Rao never had to pay his dues in indie and low-budget films. In his first two years as a cinematic actor, he landed roles in two of the biggest films of the 2000s, "Avatar" (2009) and "Inception" (2010). Rao came from a highly educated background; his mother was a physicist, his father an engineer, and his sister taught economics at New York University. Rao was born in Los Angeles on July 29, 1973, though he spent parts of his childhood in Saudi Arabia and Colorado. He originally planned on becoming a surgeon, but rather than going to medical school, he chose to pursue an advanced degree at the American Conservatory Theatre, joining a graduating class featuring Elizabeth Banks and Anna Belknap. After graduating, Rao took to the California stage, performing in regional theatrical productions, beginning with the American debut of Tom Stoppard's "India Ink." Rao certainly didn't forget his intellectual background; on June 7, 2002, Rao won a whopping $34,400 on Jeopardy. After landing a couple small TV appearances, Rao was cast in his first cinematic role in James Cameron's "Avatar," which went on to become the most commercially successful film of all time. Rao played Dr. Max Patel, a scientist with a conscience stationed on the fictional planet of Pandora. In 2009, Rao played a modern psychic in "Drag Me To Hell" (2009), director Sam Raimi's much hyped return to low-budget horror. In 2010, Rao appeared in Christopher Nolan's "Inception," playing the chemist whose concoctions enabled entrance into the dream world.