The ambush happened in Pietermaritzburg in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal province. The vans were carrying more than 45 inmates who were being transferred from prison to a court.
Police said they received reports that a number of stowaways were on board the vessel and had made threats towards the crew.
A video captured an attempted car theft at a busy South African intersection, but the driver escaped.
A 2016 documentary linked Rackstraw to the legendary figure who hijacked a Boeing 727 in 1971.
A passenger posted images from inside the plane which showed all passengers raising their hands as police surround the aircraft.
He was tackled and tied up by a group of passengers.
The actor plays Wilfried Böse, founding member of the German Revolutionary Cells, who hijacked an Air France plane carrying 248 passengers from Tel Aviv to Paris.
"The pilot said he didn't want it around his feet. Maybe he had a phobia?"
Exercise was designed to test the response of authorities to a hypothetical terror attack.
The ship has reportedly been located in Indonesian waters.