TV sleuth’s abduction horror
Sherlock star survived a real-life brush with crime, writes Luaine Lee
WHEN it comes to sheer adventure, you could not choose a better candidate to play Sherlock Holmes than Benedict Cumberbatch.
At 26, Cumberbatch found himself bound and thrown into the boot of a car by six carjackers while he was in South Africa filming the miniseries To the Ends of the Earth.
He and two friends had gone to Santa Lucia, on the northeast coast of South Africa, near Mozambique, to learn to scuba dive. Driving home their tyre blew.
‘‘ I said, ‘ I can sort this out.’ (The) three of us — an actress called Denise Black, mother of two, and Theo Landey, who lives in South Africa, and me — we’re trying to change the tyre,’’ Cumberbatch says.
‘‘ These six men appeared suddenly from the eucalyptus plantation. They said, ‘ Put your hands on your head, don’t look at us,’ and were frisking us for drugs, money, weapons. They bundled us into the car.
‘‘ I was in the front passenger seat with my back against the windscreen, the other two squashed in the back. I could see the headlights bumping over the dirt track and I thought of shallow graves and thought that either myself or someone else is going to be phoning my mum at the end of the night . . .
‘‘ By the end of the night I was tied next to Denise. She had her arm tied to me. They pulled over, pulled the stuff out of the car.’’
While they permitted Cumberbatch to exit the car, they wouldn’t let him stand.
‘‘ They dragged me up and put me in the boot of the car. I heard Denise say, ‘ Don’t hurt him.’ I argued my way out,’’ Cumberbatch says.
‘‘ I said, ‘ If you leave me in here, it’s not the lack of air, it’s the small space, there’s a problem with my heart and my brain.’ I just tried to explain to them, ‘ I will die, possibly have a fit, and it will be a problem for you. I will be a dead Englishman in your car. Not good.’
‘‘ They shut the boot, and had an argument for two seconds and then pulled me out. So I kind of thank God I had the presence of mind to give them the idea that it would be better to keep me alive. And the other two hadn’t been harmed. I was really frightened I was going to hear them being shot or pistol whipped.
‘‘ Then they got the car to the side of the road, tied us up, guns to the heads. ‘ Lie down on the ground. If you do anything we’ll shoot you.’ They took the car, but three of them were standing over us for a while and the other three took the car. That probably went on for about an hour and a half.’’ Finally they were free. ‘‘ It taught me two things,’’ says Cumberbatch. ‘‘ That is that you come into this world as you leave it, on your own. And that’s a very profound thing to actually get your head around. It’s very glib and easy to say, but to actually experience that and be made very aware of it is something. It’s made me want to live a life slightly less ordinary.’’
Though spurred with romantic visions of being a criminal lawyer, Cumberbatch eventually succumbed to the family business — acting. So when it came time to cast an updated version of some Sherlock Holmes tales, he seemed a natural. Sherlock, Channel 9, Wednesday, 8.30pm