Benedict Cumberbatch: I Was Once Abducted in South Africa

Benedict Cumberbatch on September 6, 2013
Benedict Cumberbatch revealed to The Hollywood Reporter that he was once abducted in South Africa. Michael Tran/FilmMagic

Behind his steely exterior, Benedict Cumberbatch is hiding some pretty emotional experiences. The British actor, 37, opened up to The Hollywood Reporter in a recent interview, recalling a terrifying incident that took place eight years ago in South Africa, wherein he and two friends were abducted one late night.

"We were in South Africa, in KwaZulu-Natal, this amazing district north of Durban," he began the story. According to Cumberbatch, he had been in town to shoot the 2005 miniseries To the Ends of the Earth. 'It was cold, and it was dark. I felt rotten."

What followed would haunt the actor for years to come. Just as they were driving through the "notoriously dangerous" area, the car's front-right tire blew out and the three pals had to unload their entire trunk to get to the spare.

"We were like sitting ducks, adverts for — not prosperity necessarily but materialism," he continued. Sure enough, a short time later, six men emerged from the dark, demanding that the threesome give up any money or drugs they might have on them.

"And at that point, this adrenaline of fight or flight just exploded in my body," he said. "I was like, 'Oh f—, we're f—ed!'"

After a terrifying ride in the abductors' vehicle — including some time spent in the trunk of the car — Cumberbatch said that the men stopped in the middle of nowhere.

"I was scared, really scared," he recalled. "I said: 'What are you going to do with us? Are you going to kill us?' I was really worried that I was going to get raped or molested or just tortured or toyed with in some way, some act of control and savagery."

Fortunately for the actor, the men drove off, and a kind stranger later saved him. "I looked into this black man's face, and I cried with gratitude," he said.

Cumberbatch will next star in The Fifth Estate, as Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, whom he communicated with via "email through a friend."

"He was pretty keen for me not to do the film, and the rest is sort of between us, really," he said.

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