Former Pop Idol star Darius Campbell Danesh dies aged 41

·5 min read
Former Pop Idol star Darius Campbell Danesh dies aged 41

Former Pop Idol contestant and theatre star Darius Campbell Danesh has been found dead in his US apartment at the age of 41, his family announced.

The singer and actor was found dead in Rochester, Minnesota, on August 11 – although the cause of death remains unknown.

A statement said: “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Darius Campbell Danesh. Darius was found unresponsive in bed in his apartment room in Rochester, Minnesota, on August 11 and was pronounced dead in the afternoon by the local medical examiners’ office.

“The local police department have confirmed that there were no signs of intent or suspicious circumstances. The cause of his sudden death is unknown at this stage while medical examinations continue.

“We ask that you kindly respect our wishes for privacy at this time whilst we come to terms with the tragic loss of our son and brother.”

Chicago photocall – London
America Ferrera and Darius Campbell outside the Garrick Theatre in London (Ian West/PA)

The Scottish singer-songwriter and actor – who was known as Darius Danesh when he made his first bid for fame in ITV show Popstars in 2001 – also appeared on the first Pop Idol, which was won by Will Young.

After Pop Idol, Campbell Danesh turned down Simon Cowell’s offer of a record deal and signed with producer Steve Lillywhite, whose credits include U2 and the Rolling Stones.

His debut single, Colourblind, was released in July 2002 and went straight to number one, marking the start of a run of top 10 releases.

He went on to forge a successful stage career, appearing in Chicago as Billy Flynn in two runs of the production, as well as Guys And Dolls, Gone With The Wind and more in the West End.

He lived in the US and found love with Canadian actress Natasha Henstridge, whose films include sci-fi hit Species.

Darius Campbell Danesh and Natasha Henstridge
Darius Campbell Danesh and Natasha Henstridge in 2013 (dpa picture alliance/Alamy Live News/PA)

The couple married in 2011 at the San Ysidro Ranch in Santa Barbara, California, but were divorced a few years later.

In 2010, he spoke to Hello! magazine about a car crash in which he broke his neck.

The singer had been a passenger in a Porsche when it hit a wall at 70mph after skidding on oil during a sunshine break in Spain.

After coming third in Pop Idol in 2010, he went on to win the first series of ITV’s Popstar To Operastar contest, beating Bernie Nolan of the Nolan Sisters in a close final.

A few months after his win on the ITV show, which featured Welsh singer Katherine Jenkins and Mexican-born tenor Rolando Villazon as judges, he landed his first major opera role as he was cast in a new production of Carmen at London’s O2 Arena.

He took on the principal role of toreador Escamillo in the production, for a one-off performance which marked the first ever opera at the venue at the time.

In 2011, speaking about reprising the role of Chicago’s scheming lawyer Flynn, he said he had based his portrayal of the character on his old mentor and Pop Idol judge, Simon Cowell.

Campbell starred opposite Ugly Betty star America Ferrera in the musical set in prohibition-era Chicago, and said: “He’s the consummate businessman and a wonderful guy and there’s a lot of Simon Cowell in Billy Flynn in terms of the way he approaches things and I recognise that in terms of the character.”

He credited Cowell with persuading him to take on the role in Chicago in the first place.

He said: “I’m incredibly grateful for the experiences I’ve had and all the opportunities that it opened up and to be able to call Simon Cowell a friend and to be able to have dinner with him.”

Campbell Danesh was born in Glasgow to a Scottish mother and Iranian father.

The eldest of three boys, he attended Bearsden Primary School before studying English literature and philosophy at the University of Edinburgh.

Although he found fame as Darius Danesh, he later changed his name to incorporate his mother Avril’s maiden name, Campbell, after an emotional visit to his grandfather in a Paisley nursing home made him reflect on his Scottish heritage.

He became a supporter of cancer charities including Cancer Research UK after both his parents were diagnosed with cancer and recovered.

He also made a foray into Hollywood as a co-executive producer on the horror film Imperium, starring Daniel Radcliffe, in 2016.

News of his death prompted tributes from the worlds of music, film and television.

Liberty X member Michelle Heaton, who also competed on Popstars, remembered Campbell Danesh’s Popstars audition, during which he sang a rendition of …Baby One More Time by Britney Spears. She tweeted: “So sad… thoughts with Darius family right now x always our Britney.”

West End actress and singer Carrie Hope Fletcher wrote on Twitter: “This is such sad news” and shared a broken heart emoji.

English-born actor Matthew Marsden described the news as “truly heartbreaking”.

He added: “I first met Darius when he auditioned for the Big Breakfast weather man years ago. He was a terrific human being. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”