Darius Campbell Danesh: Simon Cowell pays tribute to ‘charismatic’ Pop Idol star who has died at 41

·3 min read
Darius Campbell Danesh - Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire
Darius Campbell Danesh - Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

Simon Cowell has paid tribute to former Pop Idol contestant Darius Campbell Danesh, who has died at the age of 41.

The singer and actor was found dead in his US apartment in Rochester, Minnesota, at 11.53am on Aug 11, his family said. His cause of death is 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 Aug 11 and was pronounced dead in the afternoon by the local medical examiner’s office.

“The local police department has 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.”

Cowell, 62, was a judge on the ITV singing competition during Campbell Danesh’s time as a contestant in 2002.

In a statement given to the PA news agency, he said: “I first saw Darius on television over 20 years ago and I got to know him really well. He was charismatic, funny and just a great person to be with.

“His passing, for someone so young, is an absolute tragedy, and my heart goes out to his family and friends.”

Darius / Pop Idol - Jeff Spicer/Alpha Press
Darius / Pop Idol - Jeff Spicer/Alpha Press

Rochester Police said the investigation into the cause of death was pending and that “there is no threat to the public”.

The Glasgow-born singer-songwriter and actor, known as Darius Danesh when he made his first bid for fame on ITV show Popstars in 2001, went on to forge a successful stage career.

He appeared as Billy Flynn in two runs of Chicago, as well as in Guys And Dolls, Gone With the Wind and Funny Girl alongside Sheridan Smith.

In 2011, speaking about reprising the Chicago role, he revealed that he had based his portrayal of the character on Cowell, saying: “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 which he starred opposite America Ferrera, the star of the US sitcom Ugly Betty.

“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,” he said.

However, following his appearance on Pop Idol he turned down Cowell’s offer of a record deal and signed with Steve Lillywhite, with his debut single, Colourblind, going straight to No 1 in 2002.

America Ferrera and Darius Campbell Danesh - Ian West/PA Wire
America Ferrera and Darius Campbell Danesh - Ian West/PA Wire

Campbell Danesh lived in the US and married Natasha Henstridge, the Canadian actress whose films include sci-fi hit Species, in 2011. They divorced a few years later.

He won the first series of ITV’s Popstar To Operastar contest in 2010, beating Bernie Nolan of the Nolan Sisters in the final.

A few months after his win on the show, which featured Katherine Jenkins and Rolando Villazon as judges, he landed his first major opera role when he was cast in a one-off performance of Carmen at the O2 Arena in London, taking the part of toreador Escamillo.

He also made cameos in the TV shows Hollyoaks and Hotel Babylon and later moved into the film industry, with an executive producer credit on the 2016 Daniel Radcliffe film Imperium.

In 2010, Campbell Danesh was involved in a car crash in which he broke his neck, and in 2017 he entered a near-fatal coma after drinking from the River Thames to promote his water aid charity.

He accidentally drank from a bottle without a filter whilst promoting filters from his charity Fresh2o, contracting meningitis and cerebral oedema.