Dileep Rao is an American actor who has appeared in feature films and television series. He starred in Sam Raimi's horror film Drag Me to Hell (2009), James Cameron's science fiction film Avatar (2009), and Christopher Nolan's thriller Inception Life and career
Rao was born in Los Angeles, California to Indian parents, a physicist mother and an engineer father. and grew up in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia; Denver, Colorado; and Claremont, California. He has one sister who is a professor at NYU.. He graduated from Claremont High School and the University of California, San Diego, with a B.A., later receiving an M.F.A. from the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco where he was a classmate of Anna Belknap and Elizabeth Banks.
Rao's first role after graduating was in the American premiere of Indian Ink by Tom Stoppard. Rao moved to Los Angeles and began working in regional theater including at the Berkeley Rep, South Coast Repertory, and for the Manhattan Theater Club.
He competed on Jeopardy! on June 7, 2002, and won $38,400. On June 8, 2008, Rao was randomly selected from over 1600 entrants to play the NPR Weekend Edition Sunday puzzle on air with Will Shortz. Rao claimed that he had been playing the puzzle at home for "infinity".