Benedict Cumberbatch Talks Being Abducted in Africa 8 Years Ago

Acclaimed actor reveals he was briefly kidnapped while filming a movie in South Africa in 2005

By Josh Grossberg Sep 12, 2013 3:38 PMTags
Benedict CumberbatchStuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

Benedict Cumberbatch had his own brush with darkness and lived to tell the tale.

In an in-depth interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the Star Trek Into Darkness actor opened up about an experience which is seared into his memory to this day—the time he found himself facing a foreboding fate after being abducted at gunpoint in South Africa.

Cumberbatch told the trade he was with two friends driving north of Durban on the way back to the set of the 2005 miniseries To the End of the Earth when their car had a flat.

"It was cold, and it was dark. I felt rotten. We were wary because that's a notoriously dangerous place to drive. Then, poof, the front-right tire blows," said the 37-year-old Brit. "So we got the spare, but that meant getting all of our luggage out. We were like sitting ducks, adverts for—not prosperity, necessarily, but materialism."

Unfortunately, his fears were proven justified as a group of six armed men came out of nowhere and buttonholed them.

"They were like: 'Look down! Look down! Put your hands on your head! Look at the floor! And they started frisking us and said: 'Where's your money? Where's your drugs?" recounted Cumberbatch. "And at that point, this adrenaline of fight or flight just exploded in my body. I was like, 'Oh f--k, we're f--ked."

Choking up, the thespian recalled how the men put them in a car and drove off with them and—after he complained that his bindings were too tight and he was losing feeling in his limbs—they then stuffed him in the trunk.

After some time, the vehicle stopped and his assailants dumped him on the ground, at which point Cumberbatch admitted to being his most terrified.


"I was scared, really scared. 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, the kidnappers let him go and went on their way and he was eventually rescued by a stranger.

"I looked into this black man's face, and I cried with gratitude," remembered the Sherlock star, who also confessed his ordeal had a profound affect on him for the better.

"It really, really enriches your values in life," he remarked. "It's incredibly important."

Cumberbatch, meanwhile, is having a banner year career-wise.

Aside from his villainous turn in the latest Star Trek sequel and his role as The Necromancer and providing the voice of Smaug in the next Hobbit movie, he's also garnering buzz for two award season entries: August: Osage County opposite Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, and The Fifth Estate, a thriller which finds him playing embattled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.