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OTRC: Benedict Cumberbatch recalls 2004 abduction, stranger's kindness

A map of South Africa's east coast, as seen on Google Maps. / Benedict Cumberbatch talks to OTRC.com about 'The Fifth Estate' film at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival on Sept. 7, 2013. The actor survived a carjacking in the KwaZulu-Natal area of South Africa in 2004, while he was filming the miniseries 'To the Ends of the Earth.' (Google Maps / OTRC.com)

It has been about nine years since Benedict Cumberbatch was abducted at gunpoint in South Africa and the actor, recently spoke about his horrifying ordeal again, this time in a Hollywood Reporter story.

The actor, now 37 years old, rose to fame in his native UK as the star of the show "Sherlock" and is gaining popularity in the United States thanks to his highly-praised performance as Khan in this summer's "Star Trek Into Darkness" and his participation in upcoming films such as "The Fifth Estate" and the second "Hobbit" film. The Hollywood Reporter features him on its latest cover and asked him about his 2004 carjacking ordeal.

Cumberbatch himself penned a first-hand account of the experience in the 2009 book "Inspired By Music," which is associated with the Prince's Trust, a youth charity in which he serves as a celebrity ambassador. He has also spoken about the ordeal in the press before.

The story goes as follows: Cumberbatch was filming the BBC miniseries "To The Ends of the Earth" in the KwaZulu-Natal area of South Africa's east coast. This was in 2004, according to co-stars Denise Black, who spoke about it on the UK TV show "This Morning" four years ago. She, Cumberbatch and Theo Landey, who is from South Africa, were driving at night after returning from a diving course.

At one point, the vehicle's front tire blew and they pulled over. Six armed men showed up. They frisked the actors, who were not carrying cash, only ATM cards.

"They were like: 'Look down! Look down! Put your hands on your heads! Look at the floor!' And they started frisking us and said: 'Where's your money? Where's your drugs?' -- we had smoked a bit of weed -- 'Where are your weapons?'" Cumberbatch told the Hollywood Reporter.

The men ordered the actors in the car and drove off the road, then forced them out and placed duvets over their heads. Landey began to try to negotiate with them, while one of the men changed the flat tire. At one point, Cumberbatch signaled he was in pain and they stopped and he was thrown into the trunk.

"I was scared, really scared. I said: 'What are you going to do with us? Are you going to kill us?'" he told the Hollywood Reporter. "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."

The kindness of a stranger

The men eventually opened the trunk and let him and his co-stars go, abandoning them in the middle of nowhere, tied up. Hours later, when they were confident their abductors had left, the actors untied themselves and began walking. They spotted a truck stop and entered it. They told their story to the men and women there.

"I had my shoelace was still tied around my right hand. I hadn't bothered untying it," Cumberbatch said in a 2012 interview on Jesse Thorn's radio show, "Bullseye." "This hand came out, this black hand came out and untied the thing that they used for my bondage and my white flesh and the whole thing just snowballed in my head, everything, everything ,everything we've, whites have done to that culture -- the whole thing just suddenly smashed in and it was a profoundly moving moment."

Cumberbatch told the Hollywood Reporter that he "cried with gratitude" while looking at the man's face.

"To be able to look into a black man's face in the night in South Africa and say 'Thank you' with tears running down your face as he takes away this final sort of token, I guess, of the night's ... trauma, that was wonderful," he said on "Bullseye." "That was a huge part of the healing and I wrote to him, soon afterwards to explain that to him and he understood exactly what I meant."

Cumberbatch said on the radio show that he talked about his trauma with a counselor, adding: "I'm fine talking about it."It's a [expletive] exhausting anecdote ... It's an extraordinary, extraordinary thing and it's definitely shaped a part of who I am."

(Pictured above: Benedict Cumberbatch is interviewed by OTRC.com at the Toronto Film Festival" on Sept. 7, 2013. He discussed "The Fifth Estate" and his Julian Assange makeover and answered fans' questions - check out the full interview.)

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