Darius’ iconic rendition of Hit Me Baby One More Time was one of the first truly viral pop culture moments of the 21st Century. Although it might have ended his career before it had even started, the Scottish star proved impossible to keep down, constantly rebounding from defeat and winning over the public with his self-deprecating humour and actual raw talent. He would be one of the few reality show contestants to actually reject an offer from Simon Cowell, instead forging his own successful career across genres. SCROLL DOWN TO WATCH THE FULL BRITNEY SPEARS MOMENT IN ALL ITS GLORY.
Darius family released the devastating news of his passing earlier today. The 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 examiner’s 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.”
Just twenty years ago, the star was embarking on a career that would continue to surprise us, from pop and musical theatre stardom to opera.
After Darius was cut from Popstars, he bounced back the following year on the first series of Pop Idol. This time he made it all the way to the final, finishing runner-up behind the all-consuming rivalry of Will Young and Gareth Gates.
While those two immediately started duking it out in the charts, firmly splitting the nation done the middle, Darius quietly turned down his own record deal offer.
He later explained: “If I’d won I would have been the biggest nightmare. I wouldn’t have fitted the mold. If I’d won, either the Pop Idol logo or I would have imploded. I have to be the person I am.”
Even so, few would dare to turn down an offer from Cowell: “I turned down his very gracious offer… I was encouraged to release not only a cover, but two covers. Imagine, I could have done a cover of Gareth’s cover of Robson and Jerome’s cover of the Righteous Brothers. How great! You know, that doesn’t inspire me.”
“I felt if I’d signed with BMG I would have been cashing my chips in. It was essentially, ‘Here’s a suitcase full of money, take it and ask no questions, cover this song, yadi yadi, yadi’. I didn’t put myself through two years of being hassled by the press, I didn’t put my parents and family through two years of this, just so that I could do a cover of a song.”
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Instead, he took his time, quietly working on his debut album, Colourblind, and co-writing all twelve tracks. Lead single Colourblind topped the chart and the album went platinum.
2004’s follow-up Live Twice (named in tribute to his father’s cancer battle) was less successful but still yielded two top ten singles.
The following year, the versatile performer swapped the charts for the West End, playing Billy Flynn in the musical Chicago. Rather than just celebrity stunt casting, he soon became a respected theatre star, taking the lead in the 2007 Olivier-Award-winning Guys and Dolls and then playing Rhett in the 2008 musical of Gone With The Wind.
Five years later he originated the role of Warden in the London production of a new musical based on From Here To Eternity.
In between stage roles, Darius returned to TV in sensation style, winning the first series of Popstar to Operastar. The following year the show would be won by his old Pop Idol rival Gareth Gates. Meanwhile, Darius then headlined a major arena version of Bizet’s Carmen at London’s O2, playing the lead male role of Escamillo. It was the largest opera production ever staged in the UK at that point.
One more major musical role saw him play the male lead Nick Arnstein in Funny Girl at the Savoy Theatre in London’s West End opposite Sheridan Smith’s Fanny Bryce from 2015-2016.
In his personal life, his most famous leading lady was wife Natasha Henstridge. He married the Hollywood star in 2011, but they separated in 2013 and divorced in 2018.