Darius Danesh: Pop Idol star dies aged 41

·3-min read

Darius Danesh, the singer and actor who rose to fame on Popstars and Pop Idol, has died at the age of 41.

A statement from the Scottish star’s family 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 11 August and was pronounced dead in the afternoon by the local medical examiners’ office.”

The statement said that the local police department confirmed there were no suspicions of foul play, adding: “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.”

Danesh first earned fans for his theatrical cover of Britney Spears’s “Baby One More Time” on the 2001 talent show Popstars.

In 2002, Danesh came third on Pop Idol behind Will Young and Gareth Gates. His memorable moments on the show include his renditions of Tom Jones’s hit “It's Not Unusual” and Atomic Kitten’s “Whole Again”. The final was watched by more than 13 million viewers.

Having turned down a record deal from judge Simon Cowell, Danesh nevertheless reached number one in the UK later that year with his track “Colourblind”. His album Dive In reached the top 10.

Danesh also went on to win the first series of ITV’s Popstar to Operastar contest, beating Bernie Nolan of the Nolan Sisters in a tight final.

Following that win, he landed his first major opera role as Escamillo in a new production of Carmen at London’s O2 Arena.

He became a West End star, appearing in musicals such as Chicago and the Oliver Award-winning Guys and Dolls.

Danesh said he based his portrayal of Chicago’s scheming lawyer Billy Flynn on his old mentor and Pop Idol judge, Cowell.

Danesh singing ‘Whole Again’ on ‘Pop Idol’ (ITV)
Danesh singing ‘Whole Again’ on ‘Pop Idol’ (ITV)

Danesh 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.”

In his 2008 review of the London production of Gone With the Wind for The Independent, Paul Taylor wrote of Danesh’s performance as Rhett Butler: “The diabolically dashing Darius Danesh brings a seductively insolent charm, a dark velvet voice and a genuine, fugitive pathos to the cynical blockade runner.”

Danesh lived in the US, where he met his ex-wife, Canadian actor Natasha Henstridge.

The couple married in 2011, before separating two years later. Their divorce was finalised in 2018.

In 2010, Danesh spoke to Hello! magazine about a car crash in Spain in which he broke his neck, saying he was “three millimetres from death”. He had been a passenger in a Porsche when it hit a wall at 70mph after skidding on oil.

He was born in Glasgow to a Scottish mother and Iranian father and attended school in Bearsden 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 that 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.

Read celebrity tributes to Danesh here.