Darius Campbell Danesh, former Pop Idol star, dies aged 41

The former Pop Idol contestant and theatre star Darius Campbell Danesh has died at the age of 41, his family have announced.

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The singer and actor was found dead in his apartment in Rochester, Minnesota, on 11 August. The cause of death is as yet 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.”

The singer-songwriter and actor was born in Glasgow to a Scottish mother and an Iranian father. He made his first bid for fame in ITV’s groundbreaking talent show Popstars in 2001, with a theatrical rendition of Britney Spears’ Baby One More Time. A year later, he appeared on the inaugural Pop Idol, coming third behind Will Young and Gareth Gates in a final that was watched by more than 13 million people.

Following the show, Danesh turned down a record deal from judge Simon Cowell to work with producer Steve Lillywhite, who collaborated with him on his single Colourblind. The song reached number one in the UK, while his album Dive In reached the top 10.

In the following three years, Danesh released four more top 10 singles – Rushes, Incredible (What I Meant to Say), Kinda Love and Live Twice.

He then went on to forge a successful stage career, appearing as Billy Flynn in Chicago, Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls, Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind and Nick Arnstein in Funny Girl.

Danesh credited Cowell with persuading him to take on the role of Billy Flynn, and once claimed he based his portrayal of the scheming lawyer on the music mogul himself. “He’s the consummate businessman and a wonderful guy,” he said.

In 2003, Danesh also wrote a book about his time in the music industry titled Sink or Swim, which became a Sunday Times bestseller. In 2010, he won an ITV competition called Popstar to Operastar, during which he was trained to sing opera.

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

Danesh took on the principal role of toreador Escamillo in the production, for a one-off performance that was the first opera to be performed at the venue.

In an interview with Hello! magazine the same year, he revealed he had been in a car crash in Spain that left him with a broken neck. In 2017, he had another health scare when he accidentally drank dirty water from the River Thames, causing him to collapse into a near-fatal coma after contracting meningitis and swelling on the brain.

He lived in the US and in 2011 married the Canadian actor Natasha Henstridge at the San Ysidro ranch in Santa Barbara, California. They divorced a few years later.

Danesh became a supporter of cancer charities including Cancer Research UK after both his parents recovered from the disease. He also worked in Hollywood as a co-executive producer on the horror film Imperium starring Daniel Radcliffe in 2016.

Tributes were paid to the late star after news of his death, including from actor Sanjeev Bhaskar, who remembered his appearance on Emmy-winning comedy series The Kumars at No. 42.

“Sad news of Darius’ shockingly untimely passing. He was a guest on The Kumars and couldn’t have been a nicer, warmer guest with a great sense of self deprecation,” Bhaskar said.

Cowell said he remembered Danesh as “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,” he said.

The TV presenter Lorraine Kelly added: “This is really sad. Thoughts with his family and friends and everyone who loved him. A really good bloke – funny and kind and very talented.”

Rylan Clarke, also a presenter and a former talent show contestant, said: “Proper sad about Darius”.

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