Benedict Cumberbatch has become a sex symbol

Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch had a frightening near-death experience on the set of his new TV drama Parade's End.

Worried crew members thought the actor had been blown up when a stunt went wrong during shooting in Belgium.

'We were filming this dream sequence which involved an explosion,' says Benedict, 36.

'It just went off in my face. I was engulfed in flames. I was very, very lucky - I just got singed eyebrows, eyelashes and hair.

'It was terrifying. The [film] unit were looking on going: "F*ck! He's a goner." It was really scary.'

Benedict plays Christopher Tietjens - an aristocrat stuck in a love triangle with two women - in the 5-part series, which is based on Ford Madox Ford's 1920s novel.

The character is described as a 'bulky' northerner, which led Benedict to wonder why he'd been chosen for the role.

'He's a fat, blond Yorkshireman - he should be glum, featureless, ruddy-cheeked, blue-eyed, blond and fat,' Benedict tells TV Magazine.

'So I insisted on wearing a fat suit and plumpers - those things you put in your mouth - but I would like to have gone a lot further than that. I kept looking at myself and getting angry at the fact I wasn't fat enough!'

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Anna Duff