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Dileep Rao on Avatar’s Real-Life Casualty

As we reported yesterday, a 42-year-old man in Taiwan died of a brain hemorrhage a mere eleven days after seeing Avatar. The official cause of death, apparently written by a Fox marketing exec, was that “overexcitement from watching the movie triggered his symptoms.” There is likely no one more qualified to weigh in on this matter than Dileep Rao, who played Dr. Max Patel in Avatar. He was gracious enough to answer our questions today via e-mail.

First and foremost, could Dr. Max Patel have saved this man?
Only if he had said, “I am having a stroke that can only be alleviated by transferring my failing mind into a pre-built and mature avatar by quantum entanglement.” Then Max could have helped. Or if he’d needed some help to break out of a holding cell.

Those seem to be your dual fortes.
In all seriousness, in the future life should be fairly well-inured from death, as we discover the human body is just a series of tubes.

During the filming process, how much serious consideration was given to the possibility that you’d be killing your audience with awesomeness?
The only discussions we had about killing anyone were [regarding] the amazing caterer we had in New Zealand who could not/would not stop serving lamb.

[Blank stare]
Okay, in all seriousness, I’m sorry this man lost his life. His family must be heartbroken. I’m still at a loss to explain the event.

As a pretend doctor, care to speculate on what part of the movie killed him?
I’m guessing, with no information, the scene where Selfridge [Giovanni Ribisi’s character] is golfing. Everyone knows Taiwanese are highly stimulated by golf. Seeing that he could putt on Pandora, I think, drove his cardiovascular system to hemorrhage.

Seems unlikely. What about the Jake-Neytiri sex scene?
The Jake-Neytiri sex scene is too tame for any self-respecting Asian film fan. This is a proud culture whose experience with all aspects of human experience (including eroticism) dwarfs our own.

Dileep Rao on Avatar’s Real-Life Casualty