Benedict Cumberbatch plays Doctor Stephen Strange in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Benedict Cumberbatch plays Doctor Stephen Strange in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

When Benedict Cumberbatch was kidnapped at gunpoint, made to plead for his life: 'Are you going to kill us?'

  • Did you know that in 2004, Benedict Cumberbatch was held at gunpoint, stuffed into the trunk of a car, and made to beg for his life in front of armed kidnappers in South Africa?
PUBLISHED ON MAR 13, 2021 02:59 PM IST

Before he became a household name with Sherlock and his Marvel movies, actor Benedict Cumberbatch survived an armed kidnapping in South Africa, where was filming a show in 2004. Cumberbatch has often spoken about the ordeal, during which he was stuffed into the trunk of a car and held at gunpoint.

The actor was accompanied by his co-stars Theo Landey and Denise Black, and when they were returning from a scuba session, they blew a tyre along a stretch notorious for armed kidnappings.

The trio was tied up with their own shoelaces and made to crouch execution-style. Cumberbatch, according to a 2016 Vanity Fair profile, pleaded for his life. His co-star said that when he was stuffed into the trunk, he 'kicked and screamed bloody murder'. The kidnappers left them on the side of the road, and the trio was soon found by some local women.

“I was definitely more impatient to live a life less ordinary,” he said about his reaction to the ordeal. “I wanted to swim in the sea that I saw the next morning. If you feel you’re going to die, you don’t think you’re going to have all those sensations again—a cold beer, a cigarette, the feel of sun on your skin. All those hit you as firsts again. It is, in a way, a new beginning. But we were on our way back from the first weekend of a scuba-diving training course, so it wasn’t as if I was insular before that. I think it just made me run at it a bit more recklessly," he said.

In 2013, the actor provided more firsthand details about the attempted kidnapping in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. "We were in South Africa, in KwaZulu-Natal, this amazing district north of Durban," he recalled. "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 tyre blows. 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."

He continued, "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."

Also read: Robert Downey Jr stood up for Avengers cast after Marvel tried to strong-arm them and they threatened to quit

Cumberbatch said that it was an enriching experience that few could understand and that he 'cried with gratitude' when he saw his rescuer's face. The incident happened before he became one of the world's most popular stars, thanks to his roles as Sherlock Holmes, Khan (in Star Trek Into Darkness), and Doctor Strange in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

He is set to reprise his role as Sorcerer Supreme in the MCU, in the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

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