09/12/2013 at 10:10 AM EDT
With four movies out this fall, including early awards contenders like August: Osage County
, Benedict Cumberbatch is living a dream come true
But it wasn't long ago that the actor – who's known for his roles in TV's Sherlock
, Star Trek Into Darkness
, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
– was facing a terrifying death.
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter
, the actor, 37, tells the story of driving north of Durban, South Africa, to the set of the 2005 miniseries To the Ends of the Earth
with friends, when he was abducted and held at gunpoint.
"It was cold, and it was dark. I felt rotten. We were wary because that's a notoriously dangerous place to drive," The Fifth Estate star
says in the interview. "Then, poof, the front-right tire 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."
Before he and his friends could change the flat, Cumberbatch's fears came true when six armed figures approached their vehicle.
"They were like: 'Look down! Look down! Put your hands on your heads! Look at the floor!' " he recalls. "And at that point, this adrenaline of fight or flight just exploded in my body. I was like, 'Oh f–––, we're f–––ed!' "
Things got worse when the captors bound Cumberbatch and threw him into the trunk of a car, he says.
"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," he says.
Luckily, he was released when a stranger helped him. "I looked into this black man's face, and I cried with gratitude," he says.
The terrifying experience, Cumberbatch says, changed him. "It really, really enriches your values in life," he says. "It's incredibly important."